The fire that for five days has consumed an oil storage base in Matanzas, western Cuba, was declared “controlled” this Wednesday (10) by the Fire Department. The incident caused the death of a firefighter.
“We can already say that the fire is under control,” said Alexander Ávalos Jorge, deputy director of the Cuban Fire Department. He also highlighted the help from Mexico and Venezuela.
Mexico and Venezuela immediately responded to Cuba’s request for help. 13 planes and 2 Mexican vessels were sent, in addition to 4 planes from Venezuela, with firefighters, specialists, foam, hoses and other equipment.
The fire started on Friday (5) after lightning struck one of eight tanks, with a capacity of 50 million liters of fuel each, at the storage base located 100 km east of the capital Havana.
“Today we are calmer”, said Ávalos, but recalled that some active outbreaks still persist and that total extinction “will not be today”.
Smoke at an oil warehouse in Matanzas, Cuba, on August 7, 2022 — Photo: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters
Earlier, the crew of a Mexican helicopter flew over the fire. One of the four tanks set on fire “is practically extinguished”, a Cuban pilot who accompanied his colleagues in the Mexican Army told television.
The pilot estimated that “the work was efficient”, since it was possible to keep the pipe that connects the deposit with four other tanks of 52 million liters each, located 150 meters away.
In another tank, according to images given by the crew to Cuban television, there was less smoke and weaker flames than in previous days.
In the other two warehouses it was not possible to verify the situation as the smoke made it difficult to see, even though the flames were less intense.
The explosion of one of the tanks caused the death of a firefighter, leaving 5 hospitalized in serious condition. Another 14 firefighters are missing. The fire affected more than 100 people who required medical attention for burns and injuries, among them 20 are hospitalized.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel explained to the press on Tuesday that it is necessary to put out the flames and lower the temperature so that it is possible to enter to recover the victims, he said in reference to the disappeared.
“It will be a very difficult time” for which “we have to be prepared and give support to these families,” he added.
The Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric power plant, one of the main ones in the country, resumed activity this Wednesday after two days of stoppage due to water contamination caused by the fuel spill, which exacerbated the crisis in the generation and distribution of electricity in Cuba.
Smoke from a fire in Matanzas, Cuba, on August 6, 2022 — Photo: Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters