Gas leak blamed for Havana hotel blast

STORY: A deadly explosion at an iconic hotel in downtown Havana on Friday killed at least 22 people and injuring upwards of 70.

Rescue workers rushed to the scene as crowds gathered outside Hotel Saratoga, after the blast shook the neighborhood in the morning.

Havana resident Barbara Pineda lives next door.

''I felt a clear explosion, a single 'boom' and I saw crystals cracking and falling and a white cloud of dust that would not go away. But I managed to close the door and get away, in the opposite direction from danger, over here.''

Speaking from the scene on Cuban television, President Miguel Diaz-Canel said the blast that tore a gash through several floors of the hotel appeared to have been caused by a gas leak.

He later told Reuters, “in no case was it a bomb or an attack. It’s just a very unfortunate accident.”

The blast sent a brief wave of panic through the old Havana neighborhood.

The hotel had been under renovation and only workers were inside at the time of the explosion, state TV reported.

State media added that search and rescue efforts were ongoing and said it was unclear whether additional victims remained trapped in the rubble.

In a broadcast interview, a representative of the military-run company that operates many of the country’s hotels also said a gas leak appeared to be the cause.

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