A massive blaze in a crude oil tank in the port of Matanzas in Cuba caused several explosions that have left at least 77 people injured, local authorities said, adding that 17 firefighters were reportedly missing
Local newspaper Granma said there was “a high probability” that some of the missing people were dead, dpa news agency reported.
Authorities said the rescue teams have been unable to reach them because of the high temperatures.
The newspaper said the Minister of Energy, Livan Arronte Cruz is among the injured.
The fire started around 7 p.m. Friday, when lightning struck a crude oil storage tank in the unloading area in the port of Matanzas, the authorities said.
Despite the efforts of the firefighters to control it, there were at least four explosions on Saturday, the provincial government of Matanzas said on its official Twitter account.
Cuban authorities said they had requested international help to put out the fire.
Images shared on social media on Saturday show a massive column of black smoke crossing the city of Matanzas and extending 63 miles west to Havana.
According to the latest count reported by Granma, the fire left at least 77 people injured. Three reportedly have severe injuries and another two are in critical condition.
Most victims have been admitted to the local Faustino Perez hospital, but seven were referred to hospitals in Havana.
Among those injured with minor burns were three journalists who arrived at the fire scene when an explosion occurred in a second oil tank containing 52,000 cubic meters of fuel oil.
The oil storage facility is located in an area of Matanzas Bay opposite the city centre.
According to state media, 800 residents of nearby areas have been evacuated so far.
The first tank hit by lightning was at half capacity, with about 25,000 cubic litres of crude.
Local authorities said the lightning rod system failed to prevent the fire.
President Miguel Daaz-Canel travelled to Matanzas on Friday night and visited the wounded the next day.
The Ministry of Transportation suspended all activities at the port of Matanzas, and all ships were rerouted to the port of Havana to unload.
(Inputs from IANS)