The death toll after the explosion at the Saratoga hotel, in the center of the capital Havana, has reached 26, according to the latest report released by Cuban authorities on Saturday (7).
Among the victims is a Spanish tourist, at least four children and a pregnant woman, according to information from the Granma portal, linked to the Cuban Communist Party. Emergency teams continue the search for possible survivors in the rubble.
On Friday (6), the explosion partially destroyed the luxury hotel located near the Capitol building and known for having housed celebrities such as singers Mick Jagger, Beyoncé and Madonna.
The place was undergoing renovations and had a reopening date scheduled for next Tuesday (10), according to messages on social media. The first four floors were destroyed by the explosion, the probable cause of which was a gas leak during a refueling operation.
“There is no chance of it being a bomb or an attack,” Cuban regime leader Miguel Diaz-Canel told Reuters news agency as he left a hospital where the wounded were taken. “It’s just a very sad accident,” he continued.
As of Friday night, official figures indicated that 70 people were injured – among them is another Spanish national, in a serious condition. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, on a social network, expressed solidarity with the victims’ families and the Cuban population.
Most of the rubble on the outside of the hotel has already been removed, and searches are focused on the interior of the building, especially in the entrance hall, on the fifth and sixth floors, according to an AFP report.
Teams with dogs and tools to detect possible survivors were trying to reach the hotel’s attic, from where a woman reportedly called for help on Friday afternoon. On Saturday morning, a survivor was found, according to an Associated Press report.
The government said residents of neighboring houses were evacuated as a precautionary measure and placed in hostels. “The material destruction and the lives lost are regrettable, but I want to highlight the speed with which the population and institutions were mobilized,” said Díaz-Canel.
Built in 1880, the Saratoga was transformed into a hotel in the 1930s and a luxury property in 2005. It had 96 rooms, two restaurants and a swimming pool. Under renovation, it remained closed to tourists for two years of the pandemic, so that, inside, there were only employees at the time of the accident.
Governments from countries such as the United States, Canada and Venezuela, as well as the European Union, expressed solidarity with the island’s authorities.