Several surrounding buildings were damaged and sections of a luxury hotel were destroyed in an explosion that shook downtown Havana early Friday morning. The explosion occurred only yards from the Cuban Capitol building.
According to the president’s administration, at least 22 people were murdered and scores more were wounded. There were more that were missed. A pregnant mother and a little toddler were among those who died.
After being thrown into chaos by the epidemic, Cuba was striving to rebuild its tourist sector, which is a vital pillar of its frail economy and had been completely demolished by the disaster.
Ambulances rushed to the site, and part of the front of the Hotel Saratoga was completely demolished, according to videos and photographs published on social media. The roadway was heaped high with rubble, and smoke billowed high into the sky.
The hotel, which is a famous destination for foreign travellers and celebrities, was undergoing renovations at the time of the incident and was thus not available to guests, according to government authorities.
Cuba’s president, Miguel Daz-Canel, and prime minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, were among the first to arrive to the site immediately after the explosion occurred. Early indications from the Cuban presidency’s Twitter account suggest that a gas leak was to blame for the explosion, which occurred soon before 11 a.m. local time.
Officials said that at least 64 persons, including 50 adults and 14 children, were first admitted to hospitals as a consequence of the explosion. There were several apartment buildings destroyed, and people who had been displaced were being relocated to a secure area while repairs were being completed.
As a result of the explosion at a major hotel, memories of a series of hotel bombs in Havana during the 1990s, which were connected to militant exiles, flooded back. The authorities, on the other hand, were eager to deny any suspicion that the explosion had been planned in advance.
The Hotel Saratoga, a historic structure going back to the nineteenth century, was renovated and reopened as a luxury five-star facility in 2005. According to the hotel’s Facebook page, it had been shuttered for two years due to the epidemic and was scheduled to return next week.
The adjacent Concepción Arenal School was among the structures that were devastated. Several pupils were hurt, according to a teacher from the school who did not want to be identified. She said that windows had been blasted out and pieces of glass had been thrown a great distance.
Several state media outlets claimed that children were evacuated to the Capitol after the explosion, and authorities subsequently said that pupils will be allowed to attend classes in a different facility beginning Monday.
The explosion occurred just as Cuba’s critically essential tourist industry was starting to recover after being severely damaged by the virus in the country. Tourists have been barred from entering the island nation for months, pushing Cuba into one of the most severe economic crises in the country’s history.
According to its website, the Saratoga Hotel, which was originally established in 1880, was regarded one of the most significant hotels in Havana throughout the 1930s. A tobacco warehouse and shop, together with some residences, were used as the building’s original purpose. It was originally constructed at a separate place before being relocated to its present position on Paseo del Prado, a long and prominent thoroughfare that runs through the heart of Havana. The building was converted into a hotel in the 1930s.
The hotel, which is now operated by the state-owned Gaviota tourist organisation, has been hosting foreign guests for decades. Jimmy Page, the guitarist, and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, the singer, are among the company’s noteworthy clients.