Explosion in Cuba: The death toll of the explosion of the Hotel Saratoga reaches 31 as first responders search for survivors

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First responders working on the scene of the Explosion of the Saratoga Hotel in Havana They are looking in the rubble on Monday for signs of survivors as Cuban authorities now say 31 were killed in the blast, including four children.

The Hotel Saratoga, a 96-room five-star hotel in Old Havana, was preparing to reopen after being closed for two years when an apparent gas leak ignited Friday, blowing up parts of its outer walls in the streets one block from the country’s capitol building.

“Congratulations to the members of the Red Cross and all our gratitude for the delicate and much needed work they do”, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel said this in a tweet on Monday morning. “Thank you for the handover, for the vigilance, in these hard days that we are experiencing after the explosion of the Hotel Saratoga”.

Red Cross members gather near the ruins at the site of the deadly explosion that destroyed the five-star Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana, Cuba on Sunday, May 8.

Red Cross members gather near the ruins at the site of the deadly explosion that destroyed the five-star Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana, Cuba on Sunday, May 8.
(AP / Ishmael Francisco)

SHOW VIDEO AFTER HOTEL SARATOGA BLAST

From Sunday evening, the Cuban government said 31 people were confirmed dead following the explosion and 24 remain hospitalized.

The Cuban Ministry of Health said that among the dead were four minors, a pregnant woman and a Spanish tourist, whose partner was seriously injured.

Nineteen families had reported missing persons as of Saturday night, but authorities did not say on Sunday if the number had changed.

A rescuer and his search dog are transported on an excavator shovel on Sunday May 8 to search for survivors at the site of the Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana.

Search teams with dogs were reported to be sifting through the rubble for signs of life.

“Preliminary investigations indicate that the explosion was caused by a gas leak,” the Cuban government said in a tweet on Friday.

A large crane was seen lifting a charred tanker from the rubble on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Burials for the victims had begun, municipal authorities said, while some people were still waiting for news of missing friends and relatives.

At least 31 people were confirmed dead following the blast.

At least 31 people were confirmed dead following the blast.
(/ Ramon Espinosa)

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Several nearby structures were also damaged in the blast, including the historic Marti Theater and the Calvario Baptist Church, the seat of the denomination in western Cuba.

The church said on its Facebook page that the building suffered “significant structural damage, with several walls and columns collapsed or cracked (and) the ceiling partially collapsed,” although no church workers were injured.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.