Cuba accepted US technical assistance to control the fire in Matanzas


People look at a huge plume of smoke rising from the base of the giant oil tanker Matanzas, as firefighters and specialists work to extinguish a fire caused by an electric storm the day before, in Matanzas, Cuba, Saturday, August 6, 2021. The fire and four associated explosions left behind More than 70 wounded. (Photo by Associated Press/Ramon Espinosa)


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

“We greatly appreciate the condolences and expressions of assistance from people and organizations in the United States regarding the #Matanzas incident, including from the United States government, which provided technical advice, a proposal that is already in the hands of professionals for appropriate coordination,” said Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, Vice President Cuban Foreign Minister, on Twitter.

Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel usually takes to Twitter to talk about US sanctions against Cuba and criticize the Biden administration. But the intensity of the fire and the firefighters’ failed attempt to contain the flames so far have prompted the authorities to accept the offer with a public letter of thanks.

“We express our deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, who immediately provided material assistance in solidarity in the face of this complex situation,” Díaz-Canel said. We also appreciate the offer of technical advice from the United States.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not provide details of what was offered to Cuba.

An agency spokesperson said the Biden administration is “closely monitoring the situation, including any humanitarian needs that may arise.”

“The US embargo authorizes American people to provide and respond to disaster relief in Cuba,” the spokeswoman said.

And the US embassy in Havana had previously said that it was in contact with the Cuban authorities and sent its condolences to the victims of the fire, which has injured 77 so far.

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

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

State media published pictures showing a Cuban armed forces helicopter trying to drop water over the flames.

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

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Nora Jamez Torres is the Cuba, United States and Latin American policy correspondent for the El Nuevo Herald and Miami Herald. She studied journalism, media and communications in Havana and London. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from City University, London. Her work has won awards from the Florida Society of News Editors and the Society of 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 report sobre la politica de Estados Unidos hacia América Latina. Su trabajo ha sido recocido con premios de Florida Society of News Editors y Society for Professional Journalists.