By Aaron Humes: This evening, Prime Minister John Briceno issued a message entirely in Spanish announcing official messages of “strength and solidarity” to the president and people of Cuba after the explosion in the Hotel Saratoga, Havana, killing 26, hospitalizing 60, and damaging as many as 23 buildings in the surroundings.
The P.M. writes, (translated) “I am pleased to learn that Belizean doctors and students were among the first to rush to the scene of the tragedy to provide assistance. That shows their gratitude and therefore that of the Belizean people to the Cuban people who have given them so much. In the words of Cuba’s National Hero, José Martí, “Doing is the best way to say.” #FuerzaCuba!”
Per the BBC, it is believed a gas tanker ignited, causing an explosion that destroyed several floors of the building. The historic hotel was set for a post-pandemic reopening in four days.
The Cuban presidency said the dead included a pregnant woman and a child.
Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel has visited the damaged site, which sits opposite the government’s old congressional building. The president said: “It was not a bomb or an attack, it’s an unfortunate accident.”
The incident comes as tourism in the country was re-emerging after two difficult years caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Saratoga, a landmark in the colonial district of the capital, had been closed for refurbishment during much of this period.
The 19th-century building is synonymous in Havana with visiting celebrities – after stars such as Madonna, Beyonce, and Mick Jagger stayed there during the thaw between Havana and Washington under President Barack Obama.