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Lightning strikes fuel tanks at a Cuban supertanker port, sparking explosions and a raging fire, injuring dozens and leaving 17 firefighters missing.

The blaze broke out during a thunderstorm in the city of Matanzas on Friday night, and while firefighters fought to put it out, the blaze raged uncontrollably on Saturday.

Cuba’s official news agency said the lightning strike set a fuel tank on fire at the Matanzas supertanker base, and the fire later spread to a second fuel storage container.

At least 67 people were injured in the four blasts, and 17 firefighters were missing, according to Cuban state television. Civilians have been evacuated from the area.

Lightning strikes two fuel tanks in Cuba, injuring dozens, 17 missing

(EPA)

Three of the injured are in critical condition, while 15 others are in a “serious” condition, Health Minister Josã Angel Portal Miranda said on Twitter.

Seven patients were transferred to hospitals in the capital Havana.

Around midnight on Friday, President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited the site 80 miles east of Havana and returned in the morning as state-run television broadcasted the unfolding disaster.

Mr Diaz-Carnell tweeted before the second blast that first responders were “trying to avoid the spread of flames and any fuel leaks” into Matanzas Bay.

Fire raged overnight after second tank was hit on Friday night

(Reuters)

A subsequent tweet from his office said Cuba was seeking help from “friendly” countries with experience in the oil industry.

The fire appeared to be completely out of control by Saturday morning, when smoke reached Havana more than 60 miles away, threatening other nearby fuel storage tanks.

“I was in the gym when I felt the first explosion. A plume of smoke and terrible flames rose from the sky,” said resident Adiel Gonzalez, adding that the city had a “strong smell of sulfur.”

A paramedic at the scene, who did not want to be named, said by phone that cold water was being poured from a nearby tank.

The fires come as Cuba suffers daily power outages and fuel shortages, problems that could be exacerbated by the fires.

There are eight large tanks in the region, each with a capacity of 300,000 barrels, said Jorge Pinon, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Energy and Environment Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

“The area is a fuel transfer point for various thermal power plants, not just a nearby one, so this could be very bad news for the grid,” he said.



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