A massive fire broke out by lightning feeding on oil storage tanks in the Cuban city of Matanzas out of control on Saturday, injuring at least 121 people, the Cuban Ministry of Health said.
The Ministry of Public Health said 36 of the injured were still in hospital on Saturday evening, five of them in critical condition and three in serious condition. Cuban state television reported that at least 17 people were missing.
Lightning was reported on Friday night. Officials said the shelling hit a tank and sparked a second fire.
About 1,300 people living near the fire at the Matanzas Supertanker base have been evacuated, the office of President Miguel Diaz-Canel said, with an additional 600 workers instructed to leave.
She said five neighboring neighborhoods in Matanzas, which is about 100 miles east of Havana, were effectively protected from the effects of the fire.
The office said additional ambulances responded to the scene to take care of any injured.
The Cuban Ministry of Energy and Mines said on Saturday morning that lightning was the culprit, and the government later released a satellite map showing a bright red cloud of thunderstorm activity over the province, also called Matanzas.
On Saturday, a black plume of smoke billowed over the county, and meteorologists said the smoke was likely to reach as far as Key West, Florida.
The US Embassy in Cuba said federal law authorizes a US response, including disaster relief. She added that US officials are in contact with the Cuban authorities.
on me TwitterDiaz-Canel thanked the countries that offered help.
“We express our deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, which immediately provided material assistance in solidarity in the face of this complex situation,” he said.
“We also appreciate the offer of technical advice from the United States,” the president added.
The two burning tanks were part of a storage facility along with six other tanks, all of which are used as fuel to generate electricity.
Orlando Matos And the Associated Press Contributed.