Havana explosion: 26 killed as three floors of Cuba's Hotel Saratoga destroyed

At least 74 people injured in 'unfortunate accident'

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An explosion ripped through a historic hotel in Cuba's capital Havana on Friday, killing at least 26 people and injuring 74, the president's office said.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who visited the site shortly after the blast at the high-end Hotel Saratoga, accompanied by Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, said it appeared to have been caused by a gas leak.

"It wasn't a bomb or an attack, it's an unfortunate accident," he said in a statement shared by his office.

A cloud of dust and smoke billowed from the hotel after the blast ripped off parts of the facade shortly after 11am.

Videos posted to social media showed the bottom three floors of the hotel blown out, and rubble strewn across the street below, where vehicles were damaged.

One of the dead and 14 of the injured were children, according to an update posted on the presidential office's Twitter account early on Saturday.

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

A rescue operation was under way, with a least one person detected alive in the rubble of the basement, according to local media.

Huge explosion devastates historic Cuban hotel

Huge explosion devastates historic Cuban hotel

Built in the 1930s, the Hotel Saratoga is located in Havana's old town. It has 96 rooms and a rooftop pool, according to its website.

The hotel was refurbished and reopened in 2005, before closing again during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A post on the hotel's Facebook page said it had been due to reopen on May 10.

Only workers were inside at time of the explosion, Roberto Enrique Calzadilla, a representative of the military-run company that operates many of the country's hotels told State TV.

Mr Calzadilla pointed to a gas leak as the possible cause of the tragedy.

"The workers were... making repairs and doing all the work to open the property and in the morning they were resupplying the gas and it seems some accident caused an explosion," he said.

The neoclassical-style hotel was remodelled by a British company after the fall of the Soviet Union and was considered the place to go for visiting government officials and celebrities for many years. Recently, it had lost some of its shine with the opening of new hotels in Havana, but was still a five-star venue.

Updated: May 07, 2022, 11:34 PM