Cuba mobilizes to put out an impressive fire in a fuel depot

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Huge clouds of steam rose from Cuba’s largest fuel depot in Matanzas on Wednesday as Cuban, Mexican and Venezuelan firefighters, as well as helicopters and ships poured water and foam onto the tanks. still smoldering remains of the largest fire in the island’s history.

The situation was similar to a “barbecue” type oven, where black coal is covered with white ash, but remains red hot after the flames have died down.

“We can now say that the fire is under control (…) Today we feel calmer although we still have to extinguish it (totally) and that will not be today,” Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Ávalos, deputy chief of Extinction of the Corps, told the press. Cuban Fire Department.

The deposit is part of the terminal for large ships in Matanzas, the largest to receive crude oil and fuel. Cuban heavy crude, as well as fuel oil and diesel stored in that western province in 10 huge tanks, are mainly used to generate electricity on the island.

Lightning struck a fuel storage tank Friday night. And the fire spread to a second tank on Sunday, engulfing the area of ​​four tanks on Monday, as loud explosions were heard despite the efforts of local firefighters supported by Mexican and Venezuelan equipment and supplies.

Some local residents who evacuated to the homes of friends and family began returning on Wednesday despite government warnings.

Dioni Pérez, a 43-year-old resident who lives in the small town of “La Ganadera,” less than two kilometers from the tanker port, said that, unlike many neighbors, he preferred not to leave, fearing that cattle will be stolen.

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“I was very scared because they were a series of very strong explosions and I had never seen that candle rising into the sky in my life. The steam was very strong,” he said.

Authorities say they are eager to reach deep into the disaster zone to recover the remains of 14 rescuers trapped near the second tank that exploded. Another firefighter died and five remain in critical condition.

Analysts unanimously believe the fire dealt a severe blow to the country’s ability to store and move local and imported crude around the Caribbean island.

The Caribbean country, under heavy US sanctions, is near bankrupt. Frequent blackouts and shortages of gasoline and other essentials have created tension, leading to a series of scattered local protests following the historic riots in July 2021.

“The damage is going to be significant. It is about the fuel generated by the current in the country,” said Daleis Macías, a 45-year-old state worker.

“This is going to bring great damage, it is going to take work, to restore the service again,” he added.

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