Toll in hotels in Havana rises to 30; dogs search for survivors – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

HAVANA (AP) — Dog-wielding search teams searched the ruins of a luxury hotel in Cuba’s capital Sunday for survivors of a devastating explosion, while authorities raised the known death toll to 30.

The Hotel Saratoga, a 96-room five-star hotel in Old Havana, was preparing to reopen its doors after being closed for two years when an apparent gas leak ignited and blew the exterior walls out onto the busy mid-morning streets. just one block from the country’s Capitol. building on Friday.

Cuban officials on Sunday raised the known death toll from 27 to 30, even as crews continued to search for victims buried under mounds of shattered concrete. Several nearby structures were also damaged, including the historic Martí Theater and the Calvario Baptist Church, the denomination’s headquarters in western Cuba.

The Health Ministry said 84 people had been injured. Among the dead are four minors, a pregnant woman and a Spanish tourist, whose companion was seriously injured.

The ministry also released the names of those who died on Sunday. Some 24 people remained hospitalized.

On Saturday, a representative of Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA, which owns the hotel, said that 13 of its workers were still missing. Governor Reinaldo García Zapata said Saturday night that 19 families had reported their loved ones missing and that rescue efforts would continue.

Authorities said the cause of the explosion was still under investigation, but believed it was caused by a gas leak. A large crane pulled a charred gas tanker out of the rubble on Saturday.

The burials of the victims have begun, according to municipal authorities. But some were still waiting for news of missing friends and family.

“We hope that something is known about my cousin’s mother,” Angela Acosta told The Associated Press near the scene of the explosion. Her relative, María de la Concepción Alard, lived in an apartment next to the hotel with a black Labrador, who was also missing.

Crews worked to clean the streets around the hotel, and by Saturday night, significant foot traffic had resumed.

The explosion added to the woes of a crucial tourism industry that had been stifled by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as tougher sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump, and kept the Biden administration in place. . Those limited visits by US tourists to the islands and restricted remittances from Cubans in the US to their families in Cuba.

Tourism had begun to revive somewhat earlier this year, but the war in Ukraine deflated a boom in Russian visitors, who accounted for nearly a third of tourists to Cuba last year.

The Saratoga, which had been closed due to the pandemic, was one of the elite lodgings in Havana, often hosting visiting personalities and celebrities.

Some attention in Cuba began to shift to an official visit by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who arrived on Saturday night and met with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel on Sunday. López Obrador was wrapping up a five-country tour that began in Central America.

Díaz-Canel visited Mexico during its independence day celebrations last year. López Obrador has recently spoken out against the apparent intention of the United States government to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the Summit of the Americas that it will host in Los Angeles in June.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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