Cuban authorities confirmed that the preliminary number of victims after the explosion recorded this Friday at the Saratoga hotel in Havana is now at least nine dead, 13 people missing and 40 hospitalized.
The figure was updated in a report on state television, which is broadcasting details of the event that occurred this morning due to a gas leak, according to preliminary investigations.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel is at the scene of the accident along with Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and the leader of the National Assembly of People’s Power (unicameral Parliament), Esteban Lazo.
Children from a nearby school they were evacuated safe and soundpointed out authorities of the Communist Party of Cuba.
The explosion occurred around 10:50 a.m. (2:50 p.m. GMT) and caused the collapse of part of the building’s façade, also affected by a fire that generated a large column of white smoke, visible from much of the city.
The ground floor, first and second floors of the six-story building were severely affected by the explosion, that knocked down the facade, causing a shower of rubble on the street. The mountain of debris on the sidewalk exceeds the height of a person.
Upper floors were also damaged.
Specialists from the Ministry of Construction are evaluating the situation of the damaged building to determine if it will be possible to rescue it or resort to its demolition.
Emergency teams, firefighters and soldiers went to the scene, where they search for people who may be under the rubble.
Many onlookers also gathered around the damaged building, while authorities insist on calls for discipline and warn of the danger of a possible collapse of the structures of the Saratoga hotel.
The Saratoga is housed in a neoclassical-style building built in 1880 and operating as a hotel since 1933. Its last restoration took place in 2005, according to official media.
With five stars, the hotel is considered one of the most luxurious from the city.
The establishment is located in the Paseo del Prado, one of the main avenues of Old Havana, in the historic center of the Cuban capital.