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Cuban firefighters work against the clock to prevent the fire from spreading to two other oil deposits

The situation in Matanzas, in western Cuba, is dramatic. Throughout the night, firefighters and the Red Cross continued to work in the area and are now focused on stopping the spread of the fire.

Is that the fire was unleashed last Friday night by the discharge of lightning on one of the tanks and yesterday a new explosion spread the fire to another tank. The regime confirmed that the two burned tanks are 51 and 52. In total there are eight tanks in the complex and two are in danger: 50 and 49.

According to official media, the fire has approached a third tank, although for now the firefighters have managed to lower the temperature in the area by cooling, even with a helicopter, with seawater.

Each tank has a capacity of 50 million liters of fuel.

Now, work is being done on the evacuation of diesel in this third deposit, by means of tank trucks and a cabotage ship, which this Sunday will try to dock in the area to evacuate part of the fuel.

The balance so far registers one dead, 121 wounded and 17 missing.

At dawn, teams of specialists from Mexico and Venezuela have joined the firefighting tasks.

The Mexican team, the first to arrive at the scene, has 60 military personnel and 16 technical specialists in dealing with industrial fires from the state oil company Pemex.

Thirty-five specialists from the national oil company PDVSA and 20 tons of supplies arrived from Venezuela.

The fire broke out around 7:00 p.m. local time (11:00 p.m. GMT) on Friday, according to the first hypotheses, when lightning struck the base of fuel deposits and exceeded the capabilities of the lightning rod system.

That same afternoon the first tank exploded, with some 25,000 cubic meters of oil, and at around 7:00 local time (11:00 GMT) the second, with an undetermined amount of fuel, ignited.

The flames have risen several tens of meters, dyeing the sky of nearby Matanzas red, and the huge column of black smoke has reached Havana, more than 100 kilometers away.

Lack of maintenance

“Apparently there was a failure in the lightning rod system, which could not withstand the energy of the electrical discharge,” reported the Granma regime outlet.

Danger Ricardo, a 37-year-old welder who works at the site, cannot explain how the tanks’ lightning rod system failed.

The two tanks supply the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, the largest in Cuba, but pumping to that plant has not stopped, Granma added.

The fire occurs at a time when the island has been experiencing difficulties since last May to meet the increased demand for energy due to the summer heat. The obsolescence of its eight thermoelectric plants, breakages, scheduled maintenance and lack of fuel hamper power generation.

Since May, the authorities have scheduled blackouts of up to 12 hours a day in some regions of the country. Since then there have been twenty protests in towns in the interior of the island.

Cuba currently has an average power distribution capacity of 2,500 megawatts, insufficient for the demand of households at times of maximum consumption, which reaches 2,900 megawatts, according to official information.

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José Martí
José Martí
Nacionalista cubano, poeta, filósofo, ensayista, periodista, traductor, profesor y editor.

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