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Huge explosion at luxury hotel leaves 22 dead

A suspected gas leak has caused the deaths of 22 people in Cuba.

The Hotel Saratoga, in Havana, was destroyed by a massive explosion yesterday.

The luxury hotel, which has hosted the likes of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, had been undergoing renovation work at the time.

It had planned to reopen on Tuesday.

Rescuers worked through the night in a bid to find survivors beneath the rubble and debris.

Today, the death toll following the blast was confirmed to be 22 – with a pregnant woman thought to be among the victims.

Dozens of people have been also been injured, and taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Due to the renovation work at The Hotel Saratoga, no guests were within the building at the time of the blast.

Firefighters remove debris from the ruins of the Saratoga Hotel, in Havana, on May 6, 2022. - The death toll from a powerful explosion at a five-star hotel in central Havana climbed to 22 on May 6 with more than 50 people injured after a suspected gas leak, according to official tallies. (Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP) (Photo by ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP via Getty Images)
The hotel was closed to guests at the time of the blast, but workers were inside (Picture: AFP)
Emergency personnel remove a body found under debris after an explosion hit the Hotel Saratoga, in Havana, Cuba May 6, 2022. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Emergency personnel have worked through the night to search through rubble (Picture: Reuters)

It is believed a natural gas leak caused the explosion.

Cuba’s president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, described the blast as ‘a very unfortunate accident.’

He told Cuban television 50 adults and children had been taken to hospital.

Last night, relatives of people missing following the blast gathered by the former hotel and awaited news.

Ms Avellar told reporters she was trying to find Odalys Barrera, a 57-year-old cashier who has worked at the hotel.

She said she was the godmother of Ms Barrera’s daughters and considers her to be ‘like a sister’.

A member of a rescue team recovers a Cuban national flag at the site of a deadly explosion that destroyed the five-star Hotel Saratoga, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, May 6, 2022. A powerful explosion apparently caused by a natural gas leak killed at least 18 people, including a pregnant woman and a child, and injured dozens Friday when it blew away outer walls from the luxury hotel in the heart of Cuba???s capital. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
A member of a rescue team recovers a Cuban national flag from the former hotel (Picture: AP)
A gas tanker truck is lifted from debris after an explosion hit the Hotel Saratoga, in Havana, Cuba May 6, 2022. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
A gas tanker truck is lifted from the debris an rubble following the blast (Picture: Reuters)

The identities of those who died in the blast have not yet been released.

A Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of an explosion in Havana and are in contact with the Cuban authorities to establish further details.

‘The Embassy remains available to assist any British nationals impacted by the explosion.’

Although no tourists were reported injured, the explosion is the latest blow to the country’s tourism industry.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock (12928682a) Photo taken on May 6, 2022 shows the site where an explosion occurred at Hotel Saratoga in Havana, Cuba. At least eight people were killed and over 30 others injured after an explosion ripped through the hotel in downtown Havana Friday morning, official sources reported. Cuba Havana Explosion - 06 May 2022
The blast has been described as a ‘very unfortunate accident’ (Picture: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock)
Destroyed cars are pictured after an explosion hit the Hotel Saratoga, in Havana, Cuba May 6, 2022. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Cars outside the hotel were destroyed due to the strength of the explosion (Picture: Reuters)

Even before the coronavirus pandemic kept tourists away from Cuba, the country was already struggling with the sanctions imposed by former US president Donald Trump and kept in place the Biden administration.

The sanctions limited visits by US tourists to the islands and restricted remittances from Cubans in the US to their families in the country.

And, prior to the war, nearly a third of tourists arriving in Cuba were from Russia.

The 96-room Hotel Saratoga, located in the historic centre of Old Havana, had been remodelled after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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