International News

Cuba bids farewell to firefighters killed in tank farm fire

#Cuba #bids #farewell #firefighters #killed #tank #farm #fire

Thousands of Cubans turned out on Friday to say a final goodbye to 14 firefighters killed in a fuel depot fire earlier this month.

A long line of firefighters, soldiers and ordinary citizens solemnly marched past 14 coffins draped with the Cuban flag at a ceremony in Matanzas, some 100 km (60 miles) east of the capital Havana.

The fire broke out on August 5 when lightning struck a tank containing 26 million liters of fuel at a depot on the outskirts of Matanzas, a city of about 140,000 people.

A large explosion occurred early the next morning when a second fuel tank caught fire, killing firefighters already at the scene.

It took another six days to bring the fire under control, during which time the 14 firefighters were officially reported missing.

Four of the depot’s eight fuel tanks were destroyed. Each had a capacity of around 50 million liters (13.2 million gallons).

After the remains of missing firefighters were found, officials said Wednesday the bodies were too charred to allow DNA identification.

Two other firefighters died in the blaze and 130 people were injured, 18 of whom remain hospitalized.

The 14 were honored Friday on the second of two days of national mourning announced by President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who tweeted Thursday his condolences to the families of “these brave Cubans.”

The Matanzas depot supplies the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric power plant, the largest in communist Cuba.

The disaster comes at a time when the island — with an aging power grid and persistent fuel shortages — is 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 in the nation of 11 million.

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#Cuba #bids #farewell #firefighters #killed #tank #farm #fire

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