A desperate search for survivors is still ongoing after a gas leak caused an explosion obliterating large portions of the popular Hotel Saratoga in Havana. The blast killed 22 people, and over 70 people have been hospitalized.
Prior to the explosion, guests reported hearing something that sounded “like a bomb” only moments before the eruption tore through the hotel that was built in the nineteenth century, the U.S. Sun reported.
It is believed that a gas tanker that was parked outside of the hotel ignited, subsequently exploding and destroying several floors of the building.
At the time of writing, 22 people have died, either in the explosion or due to injuries from the explosion, and 74 people have been hospitalized. Among the deceased were one pregnant woman and at least one child.
Children attending the school next to the hotel were quickly evacuated, and there were no reported injuries among its pupils.
Local reports claim that foreigners on vacation in Cuba are still trapped on the hotel's top floor as it continues to crumble.
After visiting the site, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel dismissed the possibility of it being an attack or bombing.
Diaz-Canel instead suggested that the explosion was caused by a gas leak, in accordance with the findings of initial investigations.
Footage taken by the Cuban residents in the area shows the wounded desperately seeking safety, and medical attention as reports confirm that many witnesses to the tragedy worked to save victims from under the ruble.
Local police and fire service members have begun searching for bodies and survivors within the ruins.
Adjacent buildings on the same block as the Hotel Saratoga were also ravaged by the explosion, which reportedly caused buildings on the surrounding streets to shake. Buses, cars, and other vehicles parked outside the hotel were destroyed in the blast.
Michael Figueroa, a Cuban photographer, said that he was “thrown to the ground” by the force of the explosion as he was walking down the street.
The hotel was scheduled for its post-COVID-19 pandemic reopening in four days. Now, it lies in ruins with much of its outer wall and facades being obliterated.
Marcelo Ebrard, the Foreign Minister of Mexico, said, “Our solidarity to the victims and those affected as well as the people of that dear fraternal nation.”