At least 18 persons died in the Cuban capital city of Havana on Friday in a powerful explosion at a five-star hotel, AFP reported. The explosion, which left over 50 injured, was suspected to have been caused by a gas leakage.
Some reports put the toll at 22.
The explosion took place at the Saratoga Hotel in Central Havana. No tourists were staying at the facility as it was undergoing renovations, city Governor Reinaldo García Zapata said, according to the Associated Press.
However, some workers were in the building at the time of the blast, Reuters reported, quoting a state-run television channel.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited the site of the blast and stated that it was not caused by a bomb or an attack. “It is a tragic accident,” he said.
The explosion blew off parts of the hotel’s facade, destroyed cars parked outside and caused the dome of a nearby Baptist church to collapse. It also led to the death of a child in a nearby school. At least 15 other children at the school also sustained injuries due to the blast.
Cuban Tourism Minister Juan Carlos Garcia Granda said that as per preliminary information, no foreigner was killed or injured in the blast. The state television channel said that a truck that was supplying natural gas to the hotel caused the blast. However, it was not clear what caused the gas to ignite.
The police and rescue workers cordoned off the area around the hotel, which included several government buildings.
United States Department of State spokesperson Ned Price expressed condolences to those affected by the blast.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard also expressed solidarity with the victims. He added that the country’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will not cancel a trip to Cuba slated for Sunday.