Death toll rises to 22 after five-star £137-a-night hotel in Cuba explodes following gas leak

TWENTY-TWO people were killed and more than 70 were hospitalized after a massive explosion ripped through a popular hotel in Cuba.

A desperate search for survivors is still ongoing after a gas leak caused an explosion that wiped out the Saratoga Hotel in Havana on Friday.

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The Saratoga Hotel in Havana was obliterated by the powerful explosionCredit: AFP
The tanker that allegedly caused the explosion has been removed

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The tanker that allegedly caused the explosion has been removed

Guests have reported hearing something that sounded like “a bomb” before the eruption ripped through the 19th-century building.

A tank truck parked in front of the hotel is believed to have burst into flames, causing an explosion that destroyed several floors of the building.

At least 22 people died and 74 others were hospitalized after the explosion, according to Cuban officials.

At the time, reports claimed some holidaymakers were still trapped on the top floor as the five-star hotel collapsed.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel had already ruled out a bomb after visiting the site of the explosion on Friday.

He instead suggested that early investigations indicated the cause of the explosion was a gas leak.

The dead included a pregnant woman and a child according to official reports.

Residents have shared a series of harrowing videos from the scene on the ground, offering a terrifying glimpse of the devastation.

The walking wounded desperately try to find safety as reports suggest the Cubans heroically rescued casualties from under the mountains of rubble.

Incredible footage shows the structure of the former grand hotel being blown away, as smoke and dust choke the air.

The historic hotel was due to reopen after the pandemic in four days. It is now in ruins, with much of its exterior wall torn away.

Police and firefighters began searching for victims as hundreds of tourists and locals watched in awe.

Photographer Michel Figueroa said he was “thrown to the ground” by the blast as he walked down the street.

Adjacent buildings were also devastated by the powerful blast, with one witness saying it shook “buildings for several city blocks”.

Concerns were also raised for children attending the school next to the hotel, but it was confirmed that they had been evacuated.

Buses, cars and other vehicles parked outside were also wiped out.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard also wrote in a tweet: “Our solidarity with the victims and those affected as well as with the people of this dear brotherly nation”.

Hotel Saratoga, located in Old Havana, has 96 rooms and a rooftop swimming pool.

With guests staying in luxury, the cheapest rate is £137 per night with individually decorated rooms full of amenities.

There are two on-site restaurants that offer 24-hour room service, one of which is located on the hotel’s rooftop.

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The building was originally built in 1880 for warehouses before being converted into a hotel in 1933.

It then reopened in 2005 and has become a popular choice for vacationers visiting Cuba.

The famous five-star hotel was due to reopen in the days before the tragedy

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The famous five-star hotel was due to reopen in the days before the tragedyCredit: Hotel Saratoga
The explosion caused considerable damage

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The explosion caused considerable damageCredit: AFP
Surrounding vehicles were wiped out by the explosion

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Surrounding vehicles were wiped out by the explosionCredit: AFP
Residents watched in horror as the rescue operation began

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Residents watched in horror as the rescue operation beganCredit: AFP
The search for survivors under the rubble is still ongoing

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The search for survivors under the rubble is still ongoingCredit: AFP

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