The death toll at a hotel in Havana where dogs were searching for survivors has risen to 31

HAVANA (AP) – The death toll from a powerful explosion at a luxury hotel in the Cuban capital on Sunday has risen to 31, and search teams are still searching for people missing after they were found in the ruins of a 19th-century monument. building.

As the five-star 96-room Saradoka Hotel in old Havana prepares to reopen after two years of closure, a clear gas leak blew off the outer walls of a busy street at midnight, a block from the country’s capital. Friday Building.

Several nearby buildings were damaged, including the historic Mardi Gras Theater and the headquarters of the Calvary Baptist Church in western Cuba. The church said on its Facebook page that the building “suffered serious structural damage, with many walls and columns collapsing or cracked (and) parts of the roof collapsing”, although none of the church workers were injured.

Announcing the names of the dead, the health ministry said the victims included four children, a pregnant woman and a Spanish tourist, and that his partner was seriously injured.

The ministry said 54 people were injured and 24 were hospitalized. Earlier, 85 people were reported injured, but that number included those killed in the blast.

Although 19 families complained about missing people on Saturday night, officials did not say whether the number had changed on Sunday.

Authorities say the cause of the explosion at Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA is still being investigated, but the gas leak is believed to have been caused. On Saturday, a large crane lifted a burning gas tanker from the rubble.

City officials said the graves of the victims had begun, and some were waiting for news of missing friends and relatives.

“We hope to find out about my cousin’s mother,” Angela Acosta told the Associated Press near the site of the blast. His cousin María de la Concepción Alard lived in an apartment next to the hotel with a black Labrador and was rescued on Sunday with another dog.

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Workers were clearing the streets around the hotel, and pedestrian traffic resumed on Saturday afternoon.

“There are mothers who don’t have children,” said Mata Verde, who was walking near Saratoga on Mother’s Day in Cuba on Sunday. He tells women who have lost their sons or daughters in the bombings that they “must continue.”

The eruption has exacerbated the situation in the key tourism sector, which is facing a corona virus epidemic and tough sanctions imposed by former US President Donald Trump and the Biden administration. U.S. tourists are not allowed to travel to the islands and transfer money to Cuban families in Cuba.

Tourism began to recover a little earlier this year, but the war in Ukraine has slowed the flow of Russian tourists, who made up almost a third of the number of tourists visiting Cuba last year.

Suffering from epidemics, Saratoga is one of Havana’s elite hostels visited by VIPs and celebrities. Its owner is one of the enterprises of the Cuban army.

Part of the focus in Cuba has shifted to the official visit of Mexican President Andres Manuel L’Epez Obrador, who arrived on Saturday night at the end of a five-nation tour in Central America.

Lopez Obrador met with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Colonel on Sunday and presented him with the Order of Jose Marti “for outstanding achievements for humanity.” This is the most important reward a country can give to a foreigner.

The Diaz-Colonel’s office wrote on Twitter that Lopez O’Brien had instructed US President Joe Biden not to exclude Cuba from the US summit in Los Angeles in June.

Lopez Obrador said the purpose of the visit was to sign agreements on trade, health, education and cooperation with the island, but also reaffirmed his position on foreign policy.

“We are not in favor of hegemony. “No one should be left out, because we are an independent people, a sovereign people, and no one can stand above the rights of people and nations.”

Diaz-Connell visited Mexico last year to celebrate Independence Day. Lopez Obrador recently opposed the US government’s intention to exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the upcoming summit.

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