The balance of the powerful explosion that destroyed the Hotel Saratoga, an emblematic building in Havana, was this Saturday of 26 dead and 46 people hospitalized, while rescuers tried to find survivors among the rubble.

According to the official balance, 26 people, including four children and adolescents, died in the explosion, which partially destroyed the luxury hotel that was being renovated and was due to reopen on May 10.

According to health authorities, of the 80 reported injuries, 46 were still hospitalized this Saturday, including 15 children and adolescents.

Although there were no tourists inside the hotel, which had been closed for two years due to the pandemic, workers and employees were preparing the facility for its reopening, scheduled for next Tuesday.

"At the time of the accident, 51 workers were working at the institution."from "They have known so far the death of 11 workers, 13 reported missing, six hospitalized, and the rest managed to leave the facility, in some cases with only minor injuries."Roberto Enríquez Calzadilla, spokesman for the tourist group Gaviota, of the Armed Forces, which manages the hotel, said at a press conference.

Among the deceased is a 29-year-old Spanish tourist, who was walking nearby, whose husband was seriously injured. Another Cuban-American tourist was also injured, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

"Tragic news reaches us from Cuba. A Spanish tourist has died and another Spanish citizen is seriously injured after the explosion of the Saratoga hotel"the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, said on Twitter. "All our love for their families and those of all the victims and injured. Our support also to the Cuban people"he added.

under the rubble

"My daughter works there, at the Saratoga. She is there since yesterday (Friday) at eight in the morning and these are the hours that I don’t know anything about her"Yaumara Cobas explained to journalists. "He’s not in the morgue" neither "at the hospital"he pointed.

A search of the upper floors of the hotel turned up no bodies or survivors, a firefighter on the scene said. He explained that the search was now focused on the ground floor, the basement and the sub-basement of the facility, whose access is complicated by the large amount of debris, AFP journalists confirmed.

Canine brigades and rescue teams carrying tools to detect possible survivors were trying to access the basement, from where a woman had called for help on Friday afternoon.

"We have to move forward, lest there be, not corpses, but still companions who are below who have life, and the longer we delay, the less life will reach them"declared Ramiro Valdés, deputy prime minister and commander of the 1959 Revolution, during a visit to the site.

The Saratoga, located very close to the famous Capitol, seat of the National Assembly, is an emblem of Old Havana with a recognizable green facade and the image of a celebrity hotel, as it has hosted Mick Jagger, Beyoncé and Madonna, among others.

The building was on display starkly gutted, with the first four floors destroyed by the blast.

"Solidarity"

"It is very unfortunate what happened, the destruction, especially the loss of life, and also the injured people, but once again I want to highlight the speed with which the population and the institutions were mobilized"Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel tweeted.

"Solidarity has prevailed. #ForceCuba"he added, referring to the many Cubans who rushed Friday to donate blood to help the wounded.

Residents of neighboring houses damaged by the blast were evacuated to shelters as a precaution, the television said.

Built in 1880 to house shops, the neoclassical building was transformed into a hotel in 1933 and a luxury establishment in 2005, with 96 rooms, two restaurants and a rooftop pool.

The first elements indicate that a gas leak during a refueling operation by a tanker truck was the cause of the explosion.

"It was not a bomb or an attack, it was an unfortunate accident"Diaz-Canel said Friday in front of the mountain of rubble, seeking to end rumors on social networks that evoked the attacks on several hotels in the 1990s, commissioned by Cuban exiles.

On Friday, the United States, Canada, the European Union and Venezuela in particular expressed their condolences to the Cuban authorities. This Saturday the governments of Russia and China joined.

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