22 dead, dozens injured after explosion at Havana hotel

TEHRAN, May 07 (MNA) – At least 22 people have been killed and more than 70 injured after a large explosion ripped through a historic hotel in Havana, the Cuban government has said.

A powerful explosion apparently caused by a natural gas leak killed at least 22 people, including a child, and injured dozens Friday when it blew away the outer walls of a luxury hotel in the heart of Cuba's capital.

No tourists were staying at the 96-room Hotel Saratoga because it was undergoing renovations, Havana Gov. Reinaldo García Zapata told the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

"It's not a bomb or an attack. It is a tragic accident," President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who visited the site, said in a tweet.

Dr. Julio Guerra Izquierdo, chief of hospital services at the Ministry of Health, told reporters that at least 74 people had been injured. Among them were 14 children, according to a tweet from Díaz-Canel's office. Díaz-Canel said families in buildings near the hotel affected by the explosion had been transferred to safer locations.

Cuban state TV reported that the blast was caused by a truck that had been supplying natural gas to the hotel, but did not provide details on how the gas ignited. A white tanker truck was seen being removed from the site as rescue workers hosed it down with water.

Tourism Minister Juan Carlos García said the hotel was scheduled to reopen Tuesday.

Cuba's national health minister, José Ángel Portal, told The Associated Press the number of injured could rise as the search continues for people who may be trapped in the rubble of the 19th-century structure in the Old Havana neighborhood of the city.

A 300-student school next to the hotel was evacuated. García Zapata said five of the students suffered minor injuries.

Police cordoned off the area as firefighters and rescue workers toiled inside the wreckage of the emblematic hotel about 110 yards from Cuba's Capitol building.

ZZ/PR

News Code 186484

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