Messages of support to the Cuban people and government keep arriving from around the world following a devastating fire that has destroyed four of the eight fuel tanks at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, the country’s largest oil storage and distribution facility.
The fire began when lighting struck one of the tanks Aug. 5, causing it to catch on fire and then explode, despite the base’s Storage Tank Lightning Protection System. While progress has been made, as of Aug. 10 the fire was still active, as crews take control of the area and take further steps to quell it.
A big challenge is the impact of the more than 60-year U.S. economic war on the Cuban people, aimed at undermining Cuba’s socialist revolution. With Washington blocking much of Cuba’s trade and financial transactions, the revolutionary government did not have on hand the firefighting chemicals and equipment it needs. The loss of fuel consumed by the fire will exacerbate power outages Cuba is already forced to schedule due to the embargo. Just in 2019, U.S.-imposed sanctions blacklisted 27 shipping companies and 53 tankers because of oil deliveries to Cuba.
In response to an appeal for international solidarity by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, some 85 firefighters from Mexico and 35 from Venezuela have joined with Cuban firefighters, soldiers, the Red Cross and other volunteers to fight the fire. The Venezuelan government also sent 20 tons of foam and other fire-suppressant chemicals and a high capacity pump to distribute them.
Both the Venezuelan and Mexican governments have received the solidarity of Cuban internationalist health care workers over the years.
The Cuban government thanked them and the governments of Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, among others for their material aid. “We are also grateful for the offer of technical advice from the United States,” said Díaz-Canel.
Central leaders of the Cuban government have been on the scene to help organize the effort to put out the fire. Local residents have opened their homes and shared their meals with the volunteers.
About 125 people have been injured so far. As of Aug. 9, 19 of those were still hospitalized. There is one dead and 14 people are missing. More than 600 people in Matanzas province have donated blood to help the injured.
“We offer our solidarity to the people of Cuba, and to all those who have come to their aid,” said Sara Lobman, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from New York. “We call on working people everywhere to demand that Washington end its economic, financial and commercial sanctions on Cuba now!”