Cuba: U.S. says Cuban government has not formally requested help after massive fire

Smoke rises from a deadly fire at a large oil storage facility in Matanzas, Cuba, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. Lighting struck one of the facilitys eight tanks late Friday, Aug. 5th. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco) (Ismael Francisco, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The Cuban government has yet to formally request U.S. assistance for the ongoing massive oil storage facility fire in Matanzas, Local 10 learned Tuesday.

Flames engulfed a fourth tank at an oil storage facility in western Cuba on Tuesday as the raging fire consumes critical fuel supplies on an island grappling with a growing energy crisis.

The fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base has killed at least one person and injured 125 others, with another 14 firefighters still missing. It also forced officials to evacuate more than 4,900 people and shut down a key thermoelectric plant on Monday after it ran out of water, sparking concerns about additional blackouts.

According to a National Security Council spokesperson, the U.S. government has had general discussions with the Cuban government on the tragic disaster.

The spokesperson adds U.S. firefighting experts with experience dealing with oil storage facilities have talked to Cuban officials to offer technical advice, but the Cuban government has not formally requested additional assistance.

This is contrary to what at least one high ranking Cuban official has been publicly saying regarding possible U.S. aid.

Johana Tablada, the assistant director of the U.S. office in Cuba’s Ministry of External Relations, took to Twitter to denounce the lack of help from the American government.

On Monday morning, Tablada described it as “the absolute absence of a real aid offer in our daily diplomatic communications where technical assistance was indeed offered and that’s it.”

In another tweet, Tablada added: “The rest is old same U.S. abyss saying/acting.”

When asked several times what aid Cuba asked specifically of the U.S., Tablada did not respond.

On Saturday, when it was evident the fire was out of control, the Cuban government put out calls for international help.

On Twitter, Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said he was profoundly thankful for all the messages of solidarity and offers of help and went on to say they welcomed aid from friendly countries.

Hours later, Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel echoed similar sentiments and thanked the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile for their offers of material aid.

Diaz-Canel went on to thank the U.S. for their “technical guidance.”

Since the fire broke out Friday, Cuba has received help from Venezuela and Mexico. On Monday, government officials celebrated the arrival of a Mexican ship. Mexico is reportedly sending two navy ships loaded with food and supplies to Cuba.

The Mexican military ship Bal 02 arrives to assist with battling a fire at a large oil storage facility in Matanzas, Cuba, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. The fire was triggered by lighting striking one of the facilitys eight tanks late Friday, Aug. 5th. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“[The fire] is too hard to control,” Diaz-Canel told state run media. “In Cuba, we don’t have the means or technology required.”

Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, a vice minister in Cuba’s Ministry of External Relations, also publicly thanked the U.S. for the messages of condolences and its offers on technical guidance the fire. Added the technical guidance were accepted and that both governments were communicating.


About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.