Rescuers search for survivors as Cuba hotel blast toll reaches 25 | News

A person is lifted from the rubble overnight after an explosion devastated the Saratoga hotel in Old Havana.

Rescuers in the Cuban capital Havana continue to search for survivors after an explosion at the 5-star Saratoga hotel that killed more than two dozen people and injured many more.

Orestes Llánez, coordinator of the city government of Havana, said the death toll due to boom on friday has grown to 25 people.

Llánez told Cubandebate news site Saturday that 22 victims have been identified so far.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said one of the country’s citizens was among the dead and another was seriously injured. “Tragic news has come to us from Cuba,” Sanchez said on Twitter.

At least one person was pulled from the rubble early Saturday morning as rescuers searched for survivors, Fire Department Lieutenant Colonel Noel Silva said.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel praised the Cubans who rushed to donate blood to help the injured.

“It is a pity because of what has happened, the devastation, especially the loss of life and the injured, but once again I want to emphasize the speed with which populations and organizations mobilize.” he writes on Twitter.

Relatives of the missing remained at the scene overnight or gathered at hospitals where the injured were being treated.

Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana
The first four floors of Saratoga hotel were heavily damaged in the explosion [Ramon Espinosa/AP]

“I don’t want to move out of here,” Cristina Avellar told the AP news agency near the hotel, where the exterior walls were blown off by the explosive force of the explosion, leaving the interiors of many of the rooms exposed.

Julio Guerra Izquierdo, director of hospital services for the Health Ministry, said at least 74 people had been injured, including 14 children, according to a tweet from the president’s office.

This iconic hotel overlooks Havana’s famous Capitol building, whose glass was broken and masonry was damaged in the blast while the dome of a nearby Baptist church collapsed.

The hotel was renovated in 2005 as part of the Cuban government’s revival of the Old Havana area and is owned by the tourist business branch of the Cuban military, Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA.

The company said it was investigating the cause of the explosion.

In a series of tweets on Friday afternoon, the president’s office said preliminary investigations had indicated that a gas leak caused the explosion.

The first four floors of the hotel, which was destroyed by the explosion, are closed to guests for renovation. Staff preparing for the refurbishment to reopen on Tuesday were inside the building at the time of the explosion.

The Saratoga Hotel has been used to visit VIPs and political figures, including high-ranking US government delegations and celebrities such as Madonna, Beyonce, Mick Jagger and Rihanna.

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