Fire in Cuba spreads to second oil tank and leaves 49 injured

The fire caused by lightning on Friday in a fuel depot in Matanzas, in western Cuba, spread to a second tank at dawn this Saturday and caused 49 injuries, official sources reported.

“The fire spread to a second tank,” reported state television, while the Presidency stated on its Twitter account that 49 injured with burns have been treated in hospitals, of them “two critical and seven serious.”

According to the official newspaper Granma, “an electric shock” caused the fire on Friday night in one of the tanks at the supertanker base, on the outskirts of the city of Matanzas, 100 km east of Havana.

“The deposit contained some 26,000 cubic meters of national crude oil, about 50% of its maximum capacity, when the intensity of the lightning hit the dome of the facility, known as the geodesic dome roof,” the newspaper quoted a senior Cubapetróleo official as saying.

“Apparently there was a fault in the lightning rod system, which could not withstand the energy of the electrical discharge,” according to Granma.

The tank supplies the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, the largest in Cuba, but pumping to that plant has not stopped, the official said.

The fire occurs at a time when the island has been experiencing difficulties since last May to meet the increased demand for energy due to the summer heat. The obsolescence of its eight thermoelectric plants, breakages, scheduled maintenance and lack of fuel hamper power generation.

Since May, the authorities have scheduled blackouts of up to 12 hours a day in some regions of the country. Since then there have been twenty protests in towns in the interior of the island.

Cuba currently has an average power distribution capacity of 2,500 megawatts, insufficient for the demand of households at times of maximum consumption, which reaches 2,900 megawatts, according to official information.

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