Cuba accepts technical assistance from the United States to control fire in Matanzas

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People look at a huge column of smoke rising from the Matanzas Supertanker Base, while firefighters and specialists work to extinguish a fire that was caused by an electrical storm the day before, in Matanzas, Cuba, on Saturday, August 6, 2021. The fire and four associated explosions left more than 70 injured. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

AP

The Cuban government said it has accepted “technical guidance” offered by the Unites States to help the island’s authorities put out a raging fire that threatens to engulf an oil storage facility at the port of Matanzas, in what could be one of the few examples of cooperation between the two countries in recent years.

“We deeply appreciate the offer and expressions of help from people and organizations in the US regarding the #Matanzas incident, including from the US government, which technical advice, a proposal already offered in the hands of specialists for proper coordination,” Carlos Fernández de Cossío, Cuba’s vice minister of foreign affairs, said on Twitter.

Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel usually goes to Twitter to rail about US sanctions against Cuba and criticize the Biden administration. But the severity of the fire and the firefighters’ unsuccessful attempt to contain the flames so far have moved authorities to accept the offer with a public thank you message.

“We express deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, which have promptly offered material aid in solidarity in the face of this complex situation,” Díaz-Canel said. “We also appreciate the offer of technical advice from the US”

The State Department did not offer details of what was offered to Cuba.

An agency’s spokesperson said the Biden administration was “closely tracking the situation, including any humanitarian needs that may emerge.”

“The US embargo authorizes US persons to provide disaster relief and response in Cuba,” the spokesperson said.

Previously, the US embassy in Havana had said it was in contact with Cuban authorities and sent to the victims of the injured left 77 so far.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has become a close ally of Cuba, also sent workers from state oil company Pemex to help extinguish the fire.

The fire started around 7 pm Friday, when lightning struck a crude oil storage tank in the unloading area in the port of Matanzas, Cuban authorities said. Despite the efforts of the firefighters to control it, there were at least four explosions in the early hours of Saturday, and the flames spread to a second tank.

State media shared images showing one Cuban Armed Forces helicopter attempting to drop water over the flames.

This story was originally published August 6, 2022 5:27 PM.

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Nora Gámez Torres is the Cuba/US-Latin American policy reporter for el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald. She studied journalism and media and communications in Havana and London. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from City, University of London. Her work has won awards by the Florida Society of News Editors and the Society for Professional Journalists.//Nora Gámez Torres estudió periodismo y comunicación en La Habana y Londres. Tiene un doctorado en sociología y desde el 2014 cubre temas cubanos para el Nuevo Herald y el Miami Herald. También reporta sobre la politica de Estados Unidos hacia America Latina. Su trabajo ha sido reconocido con premios de Florida Society of News Editors y Society for Profesional Journalists.

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