Explosion of the Saratoga Hotel

Article

May 29, 2022

On May 6, 2022, the Hotel Saratoga, a five-story luxury hotel of neoclassical architecture in the Old Havana municipality of La Habana, Cuba, suffered a suspected gas leak explosion that damaged large portions of the building, as well as the surrounding infrastructure. 46 people died and 53 were injured. The hotel was undergoing renovations and there were no guests; however, there were fifty-one workers inside.

Background

The historic five-star Hotel Saratoga is located at the intersection of Paseo del Prado and Dragones, in the Cuban capital, opposite Fuente de la India. The building that became the hotel was initially three floors and built with a tobacco warehouse on the ground floor, apartments on the second and hotel rooms on the third floor in 1880. The building was commissioned by the wealthy Spanish merchant Eugenio Palacios in 1879 and was located for the first time on Rua do Monte. The building's central location made it a favorite with international visitors, and in 1933 the building was refurbished 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 lower-class housing unit, before being closed due to its deplorable conditions. In 1996, the building was transferred to a newly created joint venture company, Hotel Saratoga S.A., co-owned by Habaguanex S.A., the commercial arm of the City Historian Office, and an international confederation of investors. Most of the original building was then demolished, leaving only the facade on the two fronts. The building was rebuilt with seven floors and two basements and reopened in 2005. The hotel used to host prominent international politicians and celebrities, but the country's vital tourism sector had been struggling due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on domestic travel. and international. At the time, the building was undergoing renovations and inhabited entirely by workers, of whom fifty-one were inside at the time. The hotel was scheduled to reopen on May 10, 2022.

Explosion

The hotel was hit by a suspected gas explosion from a gas leak. The blast destroyed entire parts of the building and damaged nearby buildings such as El Capitolio, Teatro Martí and the Calvary Baptist Church. The facade of the building was almost completely destroyed, and parts of it collapsed into the street, crushing cars and people, as well as sending debris through the air. As not the entire building was destroyed, the remaining rooms could be seen damaged from the street.

Casualties

As of May 15, 99 people were reported to be injured, of which 12 were hospitalized, 41 patients were discharged, and 46 died. All but one of the dead were Cuban citizens, while the other was a Spanish tourist. Among the dead were four teenagers, a pregnant woman and a child. On May 10, it was reported that 23 of the 51 people working at the hotel at the time had been killed and three workers remained unaccounted for.

Aftermath

Cuban emergency teams and organizations such as the Red Cross worked to excavate the site, locate survivors and recover bodies. Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel visited the site on the same day as the blast and visited survivors at the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital, where some victims of the blast were taken for treatment. Messages of support came from the likes of Marcelo Ebrard, the Mexican foreign minister, and the UK's Queen Elizabeth II. The First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba said 38 houses had been affected and the neighboring building would be demolished. May 2022, Cuban authorities completed their search and rescue and all operations at the site. The president