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More than 100 injured, one dead, 17 missing after fire at Cuban oil facility

Officials in Cuba on Sunday said that 122 people were injured, at least one person had died and 17 people were missing after a fire at a crude oil storage facility. Photo by Ernesto Mastrascusa/EPA-EFE
Officials in Cuba on Sunday said that 122 people were injured, at least one person had died and 17 people were missing after a fire at a crude oil storage facility. Photo by Ernesto Mastrascusa/EPA-EFE

Aug. 7 (UPI) -- More than 100 people have been injured and one has died after a fire sparked by a lightning strike at a crude oil storage facility in Cuba, officials said Sunday.

At least 122 people were injured in the blaze, with 24 still hospitalized, including five in critical condition, Cuban state-run media outlet La Prensa reported. The Ministry of the Interior later recovered a body at the scene.

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In addition to the injuries and deaths, 17 people remained missing Sunday.

The fire began Friday night after lightning struck the Matanzas Super Tanker Base, about 60 miles east of Havana.

Two storage units, one containing about 918,000 cubic feet of petroleum and the other carrying about 1.8 million cubic feet of fuel oil, were impacted by the blaze.

Officials said the fire did not pose an immediate threat to the nearby Antonio Guterres power plant, one of the largest in the island nation.

Specialized fire crews from Mexico and Venezuela were on the scene trying to combat the blaze and prevent it from spreading to other tanks and installations.

"This morning was, once again, difficult," the Cuban presidency said. "Firefighters continue fighting the intense fire as help comes from friendly countries. Today will be a pivotal day in our fight for life."

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Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canal Bermudez expressed "deep gratitude" to Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile for offering aid.

Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, vice minister of foreign affairs, also said that the Cuban government had accepted "technical guidance" offered by the United States to combat the fire.

"We deeply appreciate the condolences and expressions of help from people and organizations in the U.S. regarding the #Matanzas incident, including from the U.S. government, which offered technical advice, a proposal is already in the hands of specialists for proper coordination," he wrote on Twitter.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department told the Miami Herald that the Biden administration was "closely tracking the situation, including any humanitarian needs that may emerge."

"The U.S. embargo authorizes U.S. persons to provide disaster relief and response in Cuba," the spokesperson said.

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