At least 18 killed in Havana hotel explosion

by IANS |

Havana, May 7 (IANS) The death toll from a powerful explosion ripping a luxury hotel in downtown Havana on Friday morning climbed to 18, with more than 50 injured, official sources reported.

Julio Guerra, head of the Cuban Health Ministry's hospital services, confirmed the figure during a press conference, Xinhua news agency reported.

Previous report said at least eight people have died and some 30 are hospitalised.

"The provincial director of health, Emilio Delgado Iznaga, confirms that the health system in Havana is fully active," the Cuban Presidential Office said in a tweet earlier on Friday, adding that "several people are offering blood donations."

A gas leak is thought to be the cause of the explosion at Hotel Saratoga, according to the Cuban Presidential Office.

The five-star hotel, located near the National Capitol building, was preparing to reopen in the next few days as part of the revival of tourism industry on the island.

According to social media reports shared by the state media Cubadebate, the explosion apparently occurred while the facility was carrying out operations with liquefied gas.

After the explosion, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel went to the scene of the incident and to a local hospital in Havana, where several of the injured were being cared for, according to images published by the Cuban Presidential Office on its Twitter account.

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