The death toll in the explosion of a luxury hotel in Havana rises to 40

A member of the Cuban Red Cross takes a break after working in the rubble at the site of a deadly explosion that destroyed the five-star Saratoga hotel in Old Havana, Cuba, Monday, May 9, 2022. AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

HAVANA — More bodies were pulled from the ruins of a luxury hotel in the Cuban capital on Monday, bringing the official death toll from a powerful explosion at the iconic building to 40.

Dr Julio Guerra, head of hospital services at the Ministry of Health, told a press conference that more bodies had been found in the past few hours. He added that there were still 18 people hospitalized with injuries from Friday’s explosion at the 19th-century Saratoga Hotel.

Search teams with dogs searched the remains of the hotel in the Cuban capital.

Prior to the latest update given by Guerra, the death toll was 35 and 20 injured patients were listed as hospitalized.

The five-star, 96-room hotel in Old Havana was preparing to reopen after being closed for two years when an apparent gas leak ignited on Friday, blowing the exterior walls onto busy streets mid-morning at a block from the Cuban capital.

Several nearby structures were also damaged, including the historic Marti Theater and Calvary Baptist Church, the denomination’s headquarters in western Cuba.

Authorities said an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the explosion at the hotel, which is owned by Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA, one of the companies run by the Cuban military.

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Sandy A. Greer