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Rescue workers at the site of the Saratoga Hotel two days after an explosion, in Havana, Cuba, May 8 2022. Picture: ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI/REUTERS
Rescue workers at the site of the Saratoga Hotel two days after an explosion, in Havana, Cuba, May 8 2022. Picture: ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI/REUTERS

Havana  — Cuban rescue workers combed through vast piles of rubble from the Saratoga Hotel in the early hours of Monday, uncovering four more bodies overnight after the hotel was hit by an explosion and bringing the death toll to 35, a local official said.

The huge blast on Friday at the five-star hotel, a block from the iconic capitol building in a renovated area of historic Havana, blew the side off the hotel and collapsed its lower floors, leaving dozens trapped, killed or injured. The death toll is now at least 35.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who visited the hotel shortly after the explosion on Friday morning, said last week that the authorities believed the blast was caused by a gas leak.

On Monday, Diaz-Canel thanked Red Cross workers for their work during recent “difficult days”.

Javier Martinez, a Havana city official, told reporters on Monday that the bodies of four hotel workers were discovered overnight. 

“There remains a group of ... 12, 13 people who are still missing,” Martinez said after conferring with the outgoing shift of overnight rescue workers at the hotel. “The priority continues to be to try to find survivors and to continue advancing in the search for bodies as well.”

Before sunrise Monday, heavy machinery scooped up piles of debris, clearing away access to the basement of the building, where officials said they hope they could still find survivors.

The lucky few who emerged alive from the building recalled the chaos from the explosion.

Besides the human toll, the blast seriously damaged two adjoining upscale apartment buildings and inflicted lighter damage to 17 structures within a two-block radius.

Local authorities said 85 people were injured. Four of the dead were children, they said. One of the dead was a Spanish tourist, another, a pregnant woman.

The neoclassical-style hotel, housed in a more than century-old building, had been closed and only workers were inside at the time of the explosion, officials have said.

Reuters 

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