Cuba mourns firefighters killed in fuel depot blaze

By Vanessa Buschschlüter
BBC News

  • Published
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire after the explosion at the container base in the industrial area of Matanzas Bay, Cuba, 09 August 2022.Image source, EPA
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Hundreds of firefighters were scrambled to fight the fire, 16 of them died

Flags are flying at half mast in Cuba as the country mourns 16 firefighters who died while battling a blaze at the Matanzas fuel depot.

The fire broke out on 5 August after lightning struck a fuel tank at the depot on Cuba's northern coast.

It took firefighters almost a week to extinguish the huge blaze, which quickly spread to two further tanks, triggering explosions.

Officials said it was the worst fire in Cuban history.

Forensic scientists said that due to the extremely high temperatures inside the fuel depot, they had not been able to identify the remains of 14 of the 16 firefighters killed.

They said that while they knew who the 14 were who were fighting the blaze when the second tank exploded, they were not able to match the ashes they found to individuals.

"Given that the remains found were subjected to high temperatures for a long time, it is not possible to apply DNA extraction," the president of the Cuban Society of Legal Medicine said.

"We cannot differentiate one from the other," he added.

Four of the eight tanks at the Matanzas depot collapsed and a huge plume of black smoke rose from the site for days.

Thousands of local residents were evacuated and told to wear facemasks to avoid breathing in the smoke.

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Watch: Lightning strike causes major fire at Cuban fuel depot

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