‘Eight dead’ as explosion damages hotel in Cuban capital Havana

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cuba police; havana

A powerful explosion has damaged a hotel in the Cuban capital, with officials reporting that at least eight people have died.

No tourists were staying at the 96-room Hotel Saratoga because it was undergoing renovations, Havana governor Reinaldo Garcia Zapata told the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

The blast at the hotel, a 19th-century building in Old Havana, was apparently due to a gas leak, according to the Twitter account of the office of president Miguel Diaz-Canel, who went to the site.

It said search and rescue efforts were under way for people who might be trapped.

Photos published by government news media showed severe damage to the hotel, with clouds of dust billowing into the sky.

Photographer Michel Figueroa said he had been walking past the hotel when “the explosion threw me to the ground, and my head still hurts. Everything was very fast.”

Yazira de la Caridad, mother of two, said the explosion shook her home near the hotel. “The whole building moved. I thought it was an earthquake,” she said. “I’ve still got my heart in my hand.”

Mayiee Perez said she had gone to the scene after receiving a call from her husband, Daniel Serra, who works at a foreign exchange shop inside the hotel.

She said he told her “I am fine, I am fine, they got us out”, but had been unable to reach him since.

The website Cubadebate reported that a school next door had been evacuated.

The five-star, 96-room hotel in Old Havana has two bars, two restaurants and a rooftop pool, according to its website.

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