Nearly 80 people were injured and 17 firefighters missing as a massive fire set off by a lightning strike at an oil storage facility raged in Matanzas city on Saturday (local time), media reports said.
According to country’s Ministry of Energy and Mines, firefighters are still trying to quell the blaze at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, where the fire began during a thunderstorm Friday night, reported to agencies.
The government said later that it had asked for help from international experts in “friendly countries” with experience in the oil sector.
Moreover, the official Agency said lightning hit one tank, starting a fire, and the blaze later spread to a second tank.
In a bid to contain the fire which engulfed the nearby area, military helicopters flew overhead dropping water on the blaze. Thick plumes of black smoke billowed from the facility and spread westward more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) toward Havana.
A rigorous fire dousing operation is underway as while providing further details of it, Roberto de la Torre, head of fire operations in Matanzas, said firefighters were spraying water on intact tanks trying to keep them cool in hopes of preventing the fire from spreading.
The provincial government’s facebook page of Matanzas said the number of injured had reached 77, while 17 people were missing. The Presidency of the Republic said the 17 were “firefighters who were in the nearest area trying to prevent the spread.”