A powerful blast on Friday shortly after 11am, compared to a big earthquake, produced big destruction to the five-star, 96-room multi-storey Hotel Saratoga located in the Paseo del Prado in Old Havana, Cuba, a 19th century structure. The blast which was supposed produced by a leak of gas ripped away large sections of the outer wall killing at least eight people. 30 others are in hospital and 13 people were missing. The deflagration caused a rain of rubble on the street. The mountain of debris on the sidewalk exceeded the height of a person. Buses and cars outside the hotel in the center of the city were destroyed. The explosion damaged other buildings nearby. A school in proximity was evacuated. Some children were reportedly injured by the blast. Police and rescue workers were at the scene and began a rescue operation.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel alongside other state officials, including the prime minister Manuel Marrero and the President of the National Assembly of Cuba, Esteban Lazo, went to the site. Diaz-Canel also visited injured patients at hospitals in Havana. “Everything indicates that the explosion was caused by an accident,” the Cuban Presidential Office said in a tweet. The Saratoga hotel, one of the most emblematic buildings in the Cuban capital, located in front of the headquarters of the Capitol building, where the Cuban Parliament currently meets, is housed in a neoclassical-style building built in 1880 and operating as a hotel since 1933. The hotel was considered one of the most luxurious in the city.The hotel was remodelled by a British company after the fall of the Soviet Union. It had been set for a post-pandemic reopening in four days.