Lightning Strike at Oil Storage Facility Sparks Worst Fire in Cuba’s History

Flames rise from a massive fire at a fuel depot sparked by a lightning strike in Matanzas, Cuba
Flames rise from a massive fire at a fuel depot sparked by a lightning strike in Matanzas, Cuba, on Aug. 8, 2022. YAMIL LAGE / AFP via Getty Images
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Forty percent of Cuba’s main fuel storage facility was slowly destroyed over five days, causing rolling blackouts and toxic smoke spreading as far as Havana, about 65 miles away.

One firefighter has been killed while 16 more remain missing and roughly 125 people have been injured, according to a government report. The oil storage facility in western Cuba caught fire late Friday after lightning struck one of its storage tanks, sparking explosions as the flames spread over the weekend.

Four fuel tanks each with a capacity of 883,000 cubic feet of fuel were destroyed, though officials have not said how much fuel has been lost. While Cuban officials have expressed gratitude for technical advice provided by the U.S. on how to handle the blaze, they have also expressed frustration over the lack of more comprehensive U.S. support.

As reported by Bloomberg:

The fire is putting additional pressure on [an] ailing energy grid. Cuba has been suffering blackouts for months, as aging power plants have gone down and fuel costs have soared. On Monday, a major power plant was taken off line because a water pumping station at Matanzas had been damaged.

For a deeper dive:

NBC News, The Guardian, NPR, Reuters, Bloomberg

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