HAVANA (AP) – The elegant Saratoga Hotel was due to reopen in Havana on Tuesday after a two-year hiatus in a pandemic. Instead, it was a day of mourning for 43 people who are known to have died in the blast that tore the building apart.
MOE staff continued to hunt in the ruins for other victims as experts began examining the fate of the 19th-century building, a former warehouse that was converted into a hotel at the beginning of the last century.
Roberto Enriquez, a spokesman for the Saratov-based military travel company Gaviota, said initial estimates put 80 percent of the hotel in a blast on Friday that threw tons of concrete into busy streets just a block from the country’s Capitol. ‘severely damaged neighboring structures.
He said that when the rescue efforts are over, the authorities will consider more deeply what to do with the structure.
Officials said Tuesday night that the 43rd body had been found, but it was not immediately known whether the latest victim was working at the hotel.
Earlier, Enriquez said that 51 people were working to prepare the hotel for its opening, and 23 of them were among the confirmed dead – managers and maids, cooks and receptionists, security and technical staff. He said the three workers remain missing, presumably buried under the rubble.
Authorities said they suspected the cause was a gas leak when a tanker was servicing the building.
The health ministry said Tuesday night that the death toll had risen to 43, including at least one Spanish tourist. Seventeen people remained in hospitals.
Havana Communist Party Chairman Luis Antonio Torres Iribar said the blast affected 38 homes and relocated 95 people, according to the official Cubadebate website.
He said one of the neighboring buildings would need to be demolished.
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