Gas leak blamed for blast at iconic Havana hotel

Speaking from the scene on Cuban television, President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the blast at the historic, high-end Hotel Saratoga appeared to have been caused by a gas leak.

“In no case was it a bomb or an attack,” he later told Reuters as he left the capital’s Calixto Garcia hospital, where many of the injured were treated. ‘It’s just a very unfortunate accident.”

The blast nonetheless sent a brief wave of panic through the historic old Havana neighborhood, which has gradually begun reopening to tourists after the pandemic battered the Caribbean island’s crucial travel sector.

Death toll from Hotel Saratoga explosion rises to 22 with more than 70 injured

Hundreds of Cubans and tourists alike gathered near the property under a hot sun as police cordoned off the area around the hotel. Many speculated about the cause of the blast as ambulances and rescue workers carried victims from the wreckage.

The explosion rattled a nearby school with more than 300 students in attendance, health authorities said. At least 15 children were reported injured as of late Friday evening, the health ministry said, and one child had died.

Cuba’s tourism minister, Juan Carlos Garcia, said no foreigners were killed or injured in the blast, according to initial reports.

The hotel, housed in a more than century-old building, had been closed and only workers were inside at time of the explosion, state-run TV said, citing Roberto Enrique Calzadilla, a representative of the military-run company that operates many of the country’s hotels.

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