(Bloomberg) -- Cuban officials are accepting international support in their fight to contain a massive fire at a fuel depot that has left at least 77 injured, 17 missing and sparked a mass evacuation from the area.
Saturday afternoon, the Cuban government said it was still trying to control the blaze at the Matanzas industrial complex that began late Friday when a lightning strike hit a storage tank. The provincial government of Matanzas said at least two tanks were on fire: one containing 26,000 cubic meters of petroleum and another containing some 50,000 cubic meters of fuel oil.
Offers to assist the communist island have poured in. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel thanked the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile for their support, and also thanked the US “for offering technical assistance.”
The US Embassy in Cuba said it had been in contact with government officials and underscored that US law authorizes US “entities and organizations to provide disaster relief and response in Cuba,” despite being longtime political foes.
State-run Granma newspaper said a specialized firefighting crew with Mexico’s Pemex oil company was en route.
Earlier in the day, Diaz-Canel had said there was “no precedent for a fire of this size” as Cuban outlets showed a massive plume of black smoke rising from the complex. He also said that firefighters on the scene after the first blast were missing.
Among those injured in the blaze was Minister of Energy and Mines Livan Nicolas Arronte. On Twitter, Arronte wrote that he was feeling well and would soon “be returning to the front line of the fight.”
Read More: Cuba Unable to Meet Energy Demand Amid Breakdowns: Official
The accident in Matanzas -- on Cuba’s northern shore and about 56 miles east of Havana -- is likely to exacerbate Cuba’s ongoing power crisis. For months, the communist island has been forced to ration electricity amid generator breakdowns and soaring global fuel costs. The outages have led to a new wave of protests.
The presidency warned that the state-run power company could only meet about two-thirds of the island’s peak demand on Saturday.
(Updated to include context throughout, international aid in 4th graph)
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