Death toll rises to 18 from Havana hotel explosion

An explosion at the Hotel Saratoga in Havana, Cuba has taken the life of 18 people, while injuring another 40, reports say.

Hotel Saratoga, which has housed the likes of Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Madonna, was the site of a powerful blast this morning, killing 18 people and injuring at least 40 more.

Nobody was staying at the 96-room hotel because it is undergoing renovations.

Hotel Cuba
Credit: Ramon Espinosa/AP

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel wrote on Twitter: “It has not been a bomb or an attack. It is a tragic accident.”

According a Cuban state-run TV station, the explosion was caused by a truck supplying natural gas to the hotel, but they did not explain how the gas caught alight.

The station reported that 18 people had died in the blast, and another 40 had been taken to hospital with injuries, but that number could rise if they find anyone still trapped in the rubble.

Officials say there are 13 people missing, however the school that backs onto the hotel was evacuated and none of the students were harmed.

Photographer Michel Figueroa was nearby when the blast hit. “The explosion threw me to the ground,” he said. “My head still hurts…. Everything was very fast.”

Another Havana local, Yazira de la Caridad, lives a block away from the hotel, but the explosion still shook her home. “The whole building moved. I thought it was an earthquake,” she explained. “I’ve still got my heart in my hand”.