Explosions, raging fires continue at Cuban oil facility

A third oil tank explodes at Matanzas Supertanker Base

MATANZAS, Cuba – Cubans living in Matanzas continue to deal with a raging fire at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, as a third oil tank explodes on Monday.

At around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Cubans across the island witnessed an explosion live on national television.

From afar, many said they could feel the heat from the flames coming from the oil storage facility.

From ground zero in Matanzas, Jancel Moreno, an independent journalist said he lives in Versailles, the neighborhood closest to the fire.

Morales said he had to rush to get his family out of the neighborhood that quickly became an ugly scene.

Several tanks have collapsed and fires continue to burn at the large oil storage facility, which is about 60 miles from Havana.

Close to 5,000 people have been evacuated since the fire sparked on Saturday.

Black smoke can be seen over the rooftops in Havana.

Youth gather on a dock while flames and smoke continue to rise from the Matanzas Supertanker Base, as firefighters and specialists work to quell the blaze which began during a thunderstorm the night before, in Matazanas, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. Cuban authorities say lightning struck a crude oil storage tank at the base, causing a fire that led to four explosions which injured dozens. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the situation is complex. He said the fire is hard to control in a country that does not have the means and technology.

Cuban officials said the fire was sparked by lightning on Friday. The facility has eight tanks which hold oil to generate electricity. According to reports, the power plant in the city of Matanzas is offline as of Monday afternoon.

The blaze comes as Cuba struggles through a deep economic crisis and faces frequent power outages amid a sweltering summer, issues that helped unleashed unprecedented anti-governmental protests last year. Officials have not provided a preliminary estimate of damages. 125 people have been injured in the fire, one person has died and 16 others are still missing.

The governments of Mexico and Venezuela have sent special teams to help extinguish the fire, with water cannons, planes and helicopters fighting the fire from several directions as military construction specialists erected barriers to contain oil spills. Local officials warned residents to use face masks or stay indoors given the billowing smoke enveloping the region. Officials have warned that the cloud contains sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and other poisonous substances.

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. 

Veronica Crespo writes for Local10.com and also oversees the Español section of the website. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami, where she studied broadcast journalism and Spanish.