The explosion was allegedly caused by a gas leak, according to the Cuban Presidential Office, which will be releasing more information soon.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has offered his condolences to Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel after Friday’s blast at the historic Hotel Saratoga.
According to Reuters, at least 31 people were killed at the explosion that the president has attributed to an accidental gas leak. Citing Havana officials, the news agency said that at least 85 people have been injured and a pregnant woman was amongst those killed by the blast.
Search and rescue teams have been working since the explosion to find those who went missing in the tragic incident. Citing Javier Martinez, a Havana city official, Reuters reported that the bodies of four hotel workers were discovered on Monday overnight.
“The priority continues to be to try to find survivors and to continue advancing in the search for bodies as well,” he said, noting that at least 12 people are still missing.
The lower side of the five-star hotel collapsed and no tourists were staying at the building as it was undergoing renovations. Areas surrounding the prominent hotel at Cuba’s capital city were also impacted, including 17 structures within two blocks from the building.
“I began to struggle a bit, I managed to get out. I had wounds on my forehead, on my head. I had no strength and many colleagues next to me, I tried to help them, but it was totally in vain,” Guillermo Diaz, the hotel´s security chief, told Cuban state media.
Since the 1930’s, the 96-room hotel has been a hotspot for tourists arriving to the Cuban city for its cuisine and open air entertainment.
Qatar and Cuba hold strong bilateral ties and several mutual visits took place between officials from the two countries.
The Cuban hospital in Qatar was inaugurated in 2012, and offers world class facilities and services. While the hospital belongs to the Qatari government, its entire medical staff, including the doctors, nurses, and technicians, are from the Caribbean island.
In 2015, Sheikh Tamim paid a historical visit to Cuba that saw the signing of various agreements.
In 2020, Cuba sent medical professionals to Qatar to help combat the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. They were assisting the staff at the Dukhan Cuban Hospital, which had been turned into a Hospital Center for the treatment of patients who were infected with the virus.
The cooperation between the two countries is not only limited to the medical field. In April 2022, the Football Associations of Cuba and Qatar signed cooperation agreement, in addition to numerous accords in the field of education too.