HAVANA – At least nine people were killed in a powerful explosion Friday at the Saratoga Hotel in Havana, authorities said.
Video released on Friday shows a gas truck being pulled from the rubble of the hotel, which is located in front of the headquarters of the Capitol building, where the Cuban Parliament currently meets. You can hear the angst in the voice of the Cubans approaching the building, looking for survivors in the rubble.
“It wasn’t a bomb, it wasn’t an attack... it has been a very unfortunate accident,” said President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who went to the scene shortly after the blast.
According to reports on social media, the explosion occurred at the hotel at 10:50 a.m. Investigators believe the blast may have been caused by a natural gas leak.
The explosion damaged several buildings in the area, including a church.
There are reports of 40 injuries and nine deaths. The youngest person injured is believed to be 17.
Explosión de una caldera en el Hotel Saratoga, esta mañana en la Habana.— Leo #27N (@soyleo27n) May 6, 2022
Dios mio, Terrible!!! pic.twitter.com/fkbpmyWhjg
Hotel Saratoga, Habana Vieja en estos momentos. Se reportan varios heridos entre ellos niños. En mí Cuba se derrumba todo menos la dictadura. pic.twitter.com/XV0b1oITm1— Italo (@ElPangoniano) May 6, 2022
The hotel is located in an area of old and deteriorated buildings, so hundreds of neighbors took to the streets for fear of new explosions.
The Saratoga, located in the historic center of Havana, is a five-star hotel with 96 rooms, bars, restaurants and a rooftop pool with a panoramic view of the city. With its French neoclassical design, with wrought iron balconies, it is one of the most emblematic buildings in the Cuban capital.
The hotel was undergoing renovations during the time of the explosion and no tourists were staying at the hotel at the time. It is believed that the majority of the damage is on the first floor.
The explosion happened as Cuba’s government hosted the final day of a tourism convention in the iconic beach town of Varadero aimed at drawing investors.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is scheduled to arrive in Havana for a visit late Saturday and Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said the visit would still take place.
To read this story in Spanish, click here.