Massive Fire from Lightning Strike on Cuban Fuel Depot
Condolences and Solidarity with the Cuban People
The Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) extends its deepest condolences to the families and co-workers of firefighters who perished or went missing in the course of heroically giving their all to contain a massive fire in an oil storage depot. The fire was caused by a lightning strike at a fuel depot in Matanzas during a thunderstorm on the evening of Friday, August 5. Its best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to all the injured.
Despite the best efforts of firefighters, strong winds led to a second tank catching fire and exploding early Saturday morning, with a third tank erupting in flames late Sunday night as fuel escaped from the collapsed second tank. The fire continues to burn and present risks of further spreading at this time.
The death of one firefighter from the neighbouring province of Cienfuegos has so far been confirmed. Seventeen others who were battling the fire, attempting to prevent its spread in the vicinity of the second storage tank, were unable to escape when it burst into flames as its contents exploded and remain missing. Rescue teams from the Cuban Red Cross continue to search for them. As of 10:00 am on Monday, August 8, the Ministry of Public Health reported that 125 persons have so far received medical attention, with 24 remaining hospitalized, a number of them in critical condition.
CPC(M-L) also sends condolences and an embrace of solidarity to the government and people of Cuba, who just three months after dealing with the tragedy of the Saratoga Hotel explosion in Havana, claiming 47 lives, are confronted with another terrible accident. It comes at a time when, among other things, critical shortages of fuel as a direct result of the criminal U.S. blockade have already been taking a toll on the island and its people, primarily in the form of electricity blackouts.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Prime Minister Manuel Marrero as well as other government and Communist Party officials have been on the scene since Friday night, supporting provincial authorities and mobilizing resources from around the country to ensure that all the necessary arrangements are in place to save lives, prevent the fire from spreading further and bring it under control as quickly and safely as possible. As part of this, complex operations are ongoing to remove the fuel from so far unaffected storage tanks in the depot and transfer it to other places.
More than 4,000 Matanzas residents have been evacuated from their homes in neighbourhoods close to the fuel depot in the supertanker port located on Matanzas Bay. Others immediately stepped forward to offer whatever assistance they could to the injured and their family members as well as to the firefighters, medical and other emergency personnel, providing them with food, drink, transportation, blood donations and medicine, as well as opening their homes to them.
Offers of concrete assistance were also quick to come from the governments of several countries. First to arrive, on the evening of Saturday, August 6, was a planeload of firefighting materials and specialists from the Mexican Petroleum Company (Pemex) and the country’s armed forces dispatched on the orders of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. They were joined by firefighters and other specialists from Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA sent by President Nicolás Maduro. They arrived in the early morning hours of August 7 along with 20 tonnes of firefighting foam and chemicals, and other materials. Together with the Mexican crew they went into action immediately to assist their Cuban counterparts.
Canadians are encouraged to contribute however they can to efforts that are being organized by solidarity groups and others to raise funds and send medical and other types of supplies and equipment the Cuban government indicates are needed to save lives, help the survivors recover and overcome all the other adverse consequences of the fire made all the more difficult under the conditions of the brutal economic war the U.S. is waging against the Cuban people.