Several thousand Cubans, including President Miguel Díaz-Canel, laid flowers and lit candles this Friday in a central park in Havana, during a vigil in memory of the 46 deceased left by the explosion of the Saratoga Hotel.

The crowd, moved, filled the Fraternity Park, located on the Paseo del Prado in Old Havana, in front of the hotel that exploded on Friday, four days before its scheduled reopening after two years of closure due to the pandemic.

Dressed in black, Díaz-Canel and his wife, Lis Cuesta, laid red roses and lit candles in memory of the victims of the tragedy, which shocked the country, after observing a minute of silence.

That this minute of silence "be a hug of love to your family and friends"said state television, inviting all Cubans to comply with that expression of mourning and condolences.

In front of plaques that showed photographs of the deceased, in which their names and ages could also be read, relatives and friends, some drowning in tears, deposited roses, gladioli and sunflowers. The images of relatives caressing the faces of their loved ones were devastating.

"the pain is too much"it is "a blow that I will never be able to forget"the former director of Saratoga, Arlién Chang, 40, told AFP.

University student Katherine Cairo(22) also came to express her solidarity: "the candles, the lights, the flowers" represent "eternal life for all these people who were victims".

Sadness and silence dominated the atmosphere in the park, despite the thousands of people who gathered at the site to support the relatives of the 46 who died in the tragedy, including four children and adolescents and a 29-year-old Spanish tourist. .

The vigil was also attended by other senior leaders of the country and representatives of the rescue teams and the local Red Cross, who have worked intensively since the explosion to find survivors or recover bodies from the rubble of the building.

According to the Ministry of Health, nine adults and four children remain hospitalized and another 40 people have been discharged.

A few meters from Parque de la Fraternidad, in the National Capitol, seat of Parliament, the Cuban flag flew at half-staff, a sign of the official two-day duel decreed by Díaz-Canel, which will last until midnight on Saturday.

According to Cuban television, the Saratoga workers offered a mass to their deceased colleagues on Thursday in the emblematic Havana Cathedral.

Built in 1880 and converted into a hotel in 1933, the Saratoga was known to have hosted a number of celebrities over the years, including Mick Jagger, Beyoncé and Madonna.

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