Saratoga Hotel Explosion

Article

May 22, 2022

On May 6, 2022, at the Saratoga Hotel, a five-story five-star hotel in the Old Havana town of La Habana, Cuba, there was an explosion thought to have been caused by a gas leak that damaged much of the hotel as well as the surrounding buildings. Forty-five people died and ninety-seven people were injured. The hotel is currently undergoing renovations and is currently not receiving guests; however, there were fifty-one workers inside the hotel. Among the known dead were three children as well as a pregnant woman and a Spanish tourist. Background The historic five-star Saratoga hotel is located at the intersection of Paseo del Prado and Dragones in the Cuban capital, in front of Fuente de la India. The building that houses the hotel was originally three stories high and was built with a tobacco warehouse on the ground floor, apartments on the second floor and hotel rooms on the third in 1880. The building was converted by the wealthy Spanish merchant Eugenio Palacios in 1879 and was first located in Monte Street. The building's central location makes it a favorite among international tourists, and in 1933 it was renovated as a hotel and moved to its current location. In the 1960s, after the Cuban Revolution, the hotel was nationalized by the new communist government and later became a low-end residential facility, before being closed due to its poor condition. In 1996, the building was jointly transferred to the commercial arm of the Office of the City Historian and the international confederation of investors. Most of the original buildings were later demolished, leaving only a facade at the front of two streets. The building was rebuilt with five floors and a two-story basement, and reopened in 2005. The hotel is a frequent meeting place for prominent international politicians as well as celebrities, but Cuba's vital tourism sector is reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. in both domestic and international travel, as well as a decline in tourists from Russia after Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine, which had accounted for a third of tourists coming to Cuba in the previous year. At the time, the building was being renovated and fully staffed by the hotel staff, fifty-one of whom were in the building. The hotel is planned to reopen on May 11, 2022.

Explosion

Inside the hotel, there was an explosion thought to be caused by a gas leak. The explosion destroyed several parts of the hotel and also damaged nearby buildings, such as El Capitolio, Teatro Martí, and the western Cuba headquarters of the Calvary Chapel Association. Parts of the hotel building fell onto the street, hitting cars and people and also causing debris to fly upwards. Since not the entire building was destroyed, the remaining rooms could be seen in disrepair from the street.

Victims

45 people have been confirmed dead. All of the victims were Cubans, except for a tourist from Spain. Among the victims were a pregnant woman, four teenagers, and a child. 97 people were injured, including children. 23 of the 51 who were working at the hotel at the time were killed, and 3 workers are still missing.

Consequences

Cuban emergency personnel and organizations such as the Red Cross worked to comb the scene, search for survivors and retrieve bodies. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel visited the scene on the same day as the explosion and visited survivors at the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital, where several of the blast victims were being treated. Support has come from figures such as Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico's foreign minister. The First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party said 38 houses had been affected, and a nearby building would be demolished.

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