In Havana, Cuba, the authorities confirmed that the preliminary number of victims after the explosion recorded this Friday at the Saratoga hotel in Havana is now at least nine dead, 13 missing and 40 hospitalized.
The figure was updated in a report on state television, which is broadcasting details of the event that occurred this morning due to a gas leak, according to preliminary investigations.
President Miguel Díaz-Canel is at the scene of the incident together with Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and the leader of the National Assembly of People’s Power (unicameral Parliament), Esteban Lazo.
Children from a school near the area were evacuated safe and sound, said Cuban Communist Party authorities.
The explosion occurred around 10:50 a.m. (2:50 p.m. GMT) and caused the collapse of part of the building’s façade, also affected by a fire that generated a large column of white smoke, visible from much of the city.
The ground floor, first and second floors of the six-story building were seriously affected by the explosion, which knocked down the façade, causing a shower of rubble on the street. The mountain of debris on the sidewalk exceeds the height of a person.
Upper floors were also damaged.
Specialists from the Ministry of Construction are evaluating the situation of the damaged building to determine if it will be possible to rescue it or resort to its demolition.
Emergency teams, firefighters and soldiers went to the scene, where they search for people who may be under the rubble.
Many onlookers also gathered around the damaged building, while the authorities insist on calls for discipline and warn of the danger of a possible collapse of the Saratoga hotel structures.
The Saratoga is housed in a neoclassical-style building built in 1880 and operating as a hotel since 1933. Its last restoration took place in 2005, according to official media.
With five stars, the hotel is considered one of the most luxurious in the city.
The establishment is located in the Paseo del Prado, one of the main avenues of Old Havana, in the historic center of the Cuban capital.
Taken from Efe