Photo: REUTERS / Courtesy
Shortly before 11:00 (15:00 GMT), an explosion caused the collapse of the facade and parts of the interior of the historic six-story building located near the Capitol, in Central Havana.
The first balance of victims offered by the Cuban presidency indicated at least eight deaths, thirty wounded and several missing.
Children from a nearby school were evacuated safely, according to authorities.
The cause of the explosion is not clear, although the government confirmed that it was an accident.
Preliminary investigations indicate that the explosion was caused by a gas leak.
The president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, arrived at the scene to supervise the search and rescue of victims. In statements to the press, he ruled out that it had been a bomb.
Shortly after the explosion, people who were in the area came to look for injured people in the rubble.
Next came the emergency services.
“The Saratoga Hotel is one of the most exclusive 5-star hotels in Havana, popular with visiting celebrities and foreign tourists,” explains BBC correspondent Will Grant.
“Mobile phone footage of people at the scene showed a huge plume of black smoke coming from the destroyed site and emergency services working through the rubble.”
The neoclassical hotel had been remodeled by a British company and for years was considered the go-to place for government representatives and celebrities.
With the opening of new hotels in Havana, it lost its appeal, but it is still considered a historic hotel.
Due to the pandemic, the building was not in service. It was expected to reopen next week, according to its Facebook page.
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