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First responders working at the scene of the Saratoga Hotel explosion in Havana search the rubble on Monday for signs of survivors as Cuban authorities now say 31 people were killed in the blast, including four children.
Hotel Saratoga, a 96-room five-star hotel in Old Havana, was preparing to reopen after being closed for two years when an apparent gas leak ignited on Friday, blowing parts of its exterior walls into the streets one block from the nation’s capitol. building.
“Congratulations to the members of the Red Cross and all our gratitude for the sensitive and necessary work they are doing”, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel said in a tweet on Monday morning. “Thank you for the delivery, for the vigilance, in these difficult days that we live after the explosion of the Hotel Saratoga.”
VIDEO SHOWS AFTERMATH OF SARATOGA HOTEL EXPLOSION
From Sunday evening, the Cuban government said 31 people had been confirmed dead following the explosion and 24 remain hospitalized.
Cuba’s health ministry said the dead included four minors, a pregnant woman and a Spanish tourist, whose companion was seriously injured.
Nineteen families had reported missing persons as of Saturday evening, but authorities did not say Sunday whether the number had changed.
Search teams with dogs are said to have combed through the rubble for signs of life.
“Preliminary investigations indicate that the explosion was caused by a gas leak,” the Cuban government said in a tweet on Friday.
According to the Associated Press, a large crane was seen pulling a charred tanker truck out of the rubble on Saturday.
Burials of the victims had begun, city officials said, while some people were still awaiting news of missing friends and relatives.
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Several nearby structures were also damaged in the blast, including the historic Marti Theater and Calvary Baptist Church, the denomination’s headquarters in western Cuba.
The church said on its Facebook page that the building had suffered “extensive structural damage, with several collapsed or cracked walls and columns (and) the ceiling partially collapsed”, although no church staff were involved. been injured.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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