Fire at Cuban oil storage tanks still out of control

The fire at Cuba’s Matanzas tank farm spread to two more giant storage tanks on Monday August 8th, bringing the total to four and increasing the complexity and challenge of the firefighting response.

The fire had started on Friday night August 5th after a lightning strike hit one tank at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, which is east of Havana. However the major tragedy occurred on Saturday morning when the heat and fire from the first burning tank ignited the adjacent tank. That generated a massive explosion that left more than 120 injured and more than a dozen still missing.

By late Sunday night the second tank had destroyed itself and collapsed. That led to a sudden release of fuel and an accelerated rate of combustion.

Early on Monday local time ignited a third tank, generating another significant explosion.

In a press conference late on Monday, firefighting chief Lt. Col. Alexander Ávalos Jorge said that the fire had “compromised” a fourth tank and that the timeline for extinguishing the blaze remained uncertain.

Venezuela and Mexico have been helping with the fight, with the former sending a 5,000 GPM portable firepump to assist with the effort. Once set up, it will be used to spray firefighting foam onto the tank fire.

In addition, crews were preparing earthen berms to contain fuel spills and prevent the further spread of the fire.

Cuba’s president said on Sunday that the US had offered technical advice on fighting the fire, which had been accepted. On Monday the US Embassy in Havana said that it was standing by in case Cuba requires humanitarian or technical assistance from the US.

Meanwhile, chemical/oil products tanker María Cristina (IMO 9502453) arrived in Matanzas Bay on August 7th to participate in the removal of crude oil. The tanks at the Matanzas Supertanker Base that caught fire contained crude oil and fuel. The light fuels contained in some of the tanks were removed with tank trucks and by ship. The fear of a possible spread of the fire have prompted the Cuban authorities to transfer the stored diesel.

2010-built, Cuba-flagged, 11,253 gt Maria Cristina is owned by Supreme Navigation Ltd care of manager Caropil Transport Marine Ltd of Limassol, Cyprus.

Report with video: