At least 22 people have been killed and dozens injured following an explosion at a hotel in Havana.
The huge blast at the high-end Hotel Saratoga on Friday is believed to have been caused by a gas leak, according to reports.
“It’s not a bomb or an attack. It is a tragic accident,” President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who visited the site, said in a tweet.
Dr Julio Guerra Izquierdo, chief of hospital services at the Ministry of Health, told reporters that at least 74 people had been injured. Among them were 14 children, according to a tweet from Díaz-Canel’s office.
Díaz-Canel said families in buildings near the hotel affected by the explosion had been transferred to safer locations.
Cuban state TV reported the explosion was caused by a truck that had been supplying natural gas to the hotel, but did not provide details on how the gas ignited.
A white tanker truck was seen being removed from the site as rescue workers hosed it down with water.
Tourism Minister Juan Carlos García said the hotel was scheduled to reopen on Tuesday.
The blast sent smoke billowing into the air around the hotel with people on the street staring in awe, one saying “Oh my God,” and cars honking their horns as they sped away from the scene, videos showed.
It happened as Cuba is struggling to revive its key tourism sector that was devastated by the coronavirus pandemic.
José Ángel Portal, Cuba’s national health minister, said the number of injured could rise as the search continues for people who may be trapped in the rubble of the 19th century structure in the Old Havana neighborhood of the city.
A 300-student school next to the hotel was evacuated. García Zapata said five of the students suffered minor injuries.
Police cordoned off the area as firefighters and rescue workers toiled inside the wreckage of the emblematic hotel about 110 yards (100 meters) from Cuba’s Capitol building.
The Hotel Saratoga has been used frequently by visiting VIPs and political figures, including high-ranking US government delegations. Beyoncé and Jay-Z stayed there during a 2013 visit to Cuba.