Huge plumes of thick smoke have been rising into the air since last night after a lightning strike in Cuba set two large oil storage tanks ablaze.
The first container burned through the night, and the inferno later spread to a second, which exploded this morning.
Civilians had already been evacuated from the area, near the supertanker port in Matanzas, but at least 49 people were hurt in the second blast.
Health minister José Angel Portal Miranda said that of those injured, one was critical and seven others were in a ‘grave’ condition.
‘I was in the gym when I felt the first explosion. A column of smoke and terrible fire rose through the skies,’ resident Adiel Gonzalez said, adding: ‘The city has a strong smell of sulphur.’
It is not known how much oil had burned, but Cuba is currently suffering from a fuel shortage and daily blackouts.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited the scene 80 miles east of Havana around midnight and returned during the morning as state-run television broadcast live coverage of the unfolding disaster.
Diaz-Canel tweeted before the second blast that first responders were ‘trying to avert the spread of the flames and any spill of fuel’ into the Matanzas bay.
By Saturday morning the fire appeared completely out of control, threatening other nearby fuel storage tanks.
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