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The third fuel tank collapses as helicopters battle Cuban fire

#fuel #tank #collapses #helicopters #battle #Cuban #fire

Helicopters tried to contain a days-old fire that downed a third tank at a tank farm in Cuba on Monday, while the search for 16 missing firefighters continued.

According to an official update, the confirmed figure in the fire was a 60-year-old firefighter who hospitalized 24 people – five of them in critical condition.

More than 100 others were injured, most suffered burns, and around 5,000 people were evacuated from the disaster area, authorities said.

The fire on the outskirts of Matanzas, a city of 140,000 people 100 kilometers east of Havana, broke out late Friday after lightning struck one of eight tanks at the depot.

On Monday, the governor of the western province of Matanzas said the fire had spread to a third tank, which collapsed like two others ahead of the weekend.

“The third tank also collapsed after the second spilled its fuel,” as it collapsed on Sunday, Gov. Mario Sabines told state television.

He said the fire area was “very large” and the containment efforts “very complex”.

Planes, firefighters and other specialists and equipment arrived in Cuba from Mexico and Venezuela on Sunday after the island nation asked for help from “friendly countries”.

Sabines said teams are preparing an operation to put out the flames with foam, “but that could take a while.”

– Efforts are “intensified” –

“Work to fight the fire is intensifying,” the Cuban Presidency said on Twitter, adding Monday was a “crucial day” for the effort.

Family members of the missing firefighters met President Miguel Diaz-Canel Sunday at a hotel in Matanzas, where they were given access to doctors and psychologists.

“My son did his duty, he stepped forward,” said the distraught mother of a 19-year-old firefighter who was at the depot when the second fuel tank caught fire.

Health officials said they are monitoring air quality and are advising people at risk to wear masks in smoke areas and avoid walking in the rain.

After the first tank caught fire late Friday, the fire spread to a second tank in the early hours of Saturday.

The first two tanks collapsed overnight on Sunday, causing three other reported injuries and spilling their oil.

According to state oil company Cupet, the first tank held about 26,000 cubic meters of crude oil, about half its capacity.

The second contained 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil. It was initially not clear how full the third tank – also with a capacity of 52,000 cubic meters – was.

Firefighters had struggled to prevent the third tank from catching fire and doused it with water to keep it cool, but ultimately to no avail.

The depot, built in the 1980s and modernized several times, supplies the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric power plant, the largest in the communist country.

According to the official newspaper Granma, the plant has five docks for ships with a capacity of up to 180,000 tons.

The disaster came at a time when the island — with an aging power grid and persistent fuel shortages — was facing growing difficulties in meeting energy needs.

Since May, authorities have imposed power outages of up to 12 hours a day in some regions – sparking protests across the country of 11 million people.

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