Saratoga Hotel Explosion
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.