Cuba still struggling with oil depot fire, worst in island's history
By Nelson Acosta and Marc Frank
HAVANA, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Cubans awoke to massive blackouts Tuesday morning with 40% of the country's main fuel storage facility destroyed by what officials said was the worst fire in its history.
Reuters witnesses reported the raging flames that ravaged a four-tank segment of the Matanzas super tanker port since Friday had died down and the towering plumes of thick black smoke still streaming from the area appeared tinted gray.
Matanzas is Cuba's largest port for receiving crude oil and fuel imports. Cuban heavy crude, as well as fuel oil and diesel stored in Matanzas, are mainly used to generate electricity on the island.
The Communist-run country, under heavy U.S. sanctions, is all but bankrupt. Frequent blackouts and shortages of gasoline and other commodities already had created a tense situation with scattered local protests following last summer's historic unrest in July.
Lightning struck one fuel storage tank Friday evening. The fire spread to a second by Sunday and engulfed the four-tank area Monday, accompanied by huge explosions and despite efforts by local firefighters supported by more than 100 Mexican and Venezuelan reinforcements.
Officials have not said how much fuel has been lost in the fire which destroyed all four tanks. Authorities stated that no oil had contaminated the nearby Matanzas Bay. Still they warned residents as far away as Havana to wear face masks and avoid acid rain due to the massive plume of smoke the fire generated.
One firefighter died and 14 went missing on Saturday when the second tank blew up, authorities said on Tuesday, correcting an earlier figure of 16 missing.
Mario Sabines, governor of the Matanzas province, about 60 miles (130 km) from Havana, quipped the flames spread like an "Olympic torch" from one tank to the next, turning each into a "caldron".
On Tuesday morning more helicopters joined the effort to put out the fire, along with a fireboat sent by Mexico.
Daniel Chavez, deputy chief of the forces trying to douse the flames, told local media “we see a change in smoke color ... It seems to be a different day and we are taking advantage of the morning when the sun is not so strong because it is a factor that has an impact”.
Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by David Gregorio
Disclaimer: The XM Group entities provide execution-only service and access to our Online Trading Facility, permitting a person to view and/or use the content available on or via the website, is not intended to change or expand on this, nor does it change or expand on this. Such access and use are always subject to: (i) Terms and Conditions; (ii) Risk Warnings; and (iii) Full Disclaimer. Such content is therefore provided as no more than general information. Particularly, please be aware that the contents of our Online Trading Facility are neither a solicitation, nor an offer to enter any transactions on the financial markets. Trading on any financial market involves a significant level of risk to your capital.
All material published on our Online Trading Facility is intended for educational/informational purposes only, and does not contain – nor should it be considered as containing – financial, investment tax or trading advice and recommendations; or a record of our trading prices; or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instruments; or unsolicited financial promotions to you.
Any third-party content, as well as content prepared by XM, such as: opinions, news, research, analyses, prices and other information or links to third-party sites contained on this website are provided on an “as-is” basis, as general market commentary, and do not constitute investment advice. To the extent that any content is construed as investment research, you must note and accept that the content was not intended to and has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such, it would be considered as marketing communication under the relevant laws and regulations. Please ensure that you have read and understood our Notification on Non-Independent Investment. Research and Risk Warning concerning the foregoing information, which can be accessed here.