Havana hotel explosion: Death toll climbs to 40

HAVANA — A powerful explosion damaged a hotel in Havana, Cuba, on Friday.

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The explosion at the luxury Hotel Saratoga was believed to be because of a gas leak, according to President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s Twitter. Search and rescue efforts continue, according to The Associated Press.

Update 8:21 p.m. EDT May 9: Cuban authorities confirmed late Monday that the death toll from the explosion has increased to 40.

Dr. Julio Guerra, chief of hospital services at the Ministry of Health, said at a news conference that more bodies had been recovered in the past few hours and confirmed that 18 people remained hospitalized for injuries sustained in the blast, the AP reported.

Update 12:35 p.m. EDT May 8: The death toll at the Hotel Saratoga in Havana climbed to 30 on Sunday, with officials using dogs to hunt through the rubble of the five-star facility, The Associated Press reported.

The Health Ministry said 84 people were injured after the explosion, according to the AP. Fatalities included four minors, a pregnant woman and a Spanish tourist whose companion was seriously injured.

Update 11:40 a.m. EDT May 7: Havana city officials raised the death toll to 26 on Saturday, according to the official Cubadebate news site. The fatalities included four children and a pregnant woman, according to The Associated Press.

Relatives on Saturday searched for victims of the explosion at the 96-room, five-star Hotel Saratoga in Cuba’s capital, according to the AP.

Update 9:13 p.m. EDT May 6: Cuban officials revised the death count to 22 after an explosion apparently caused by a natural gas leak led to an explosion at a luxury hotel in Havana, The Associated Press reported.

Update 7:11 p.m. EDT May 6: Cuban officials have raised the death toll to 18 after a powerful explosion at Havana’s Hotel Saratoga, according to The Associated Press. The fatalities include a pregnant woman and a child, Cuban officials said. Officials also said that 74 people were injured in the blast.

No tourists were staying at the 96-room hotel because it was undergoing renovations, Havana Gov. Reinaldo García Zapata told the Communist Party newspaper Granma.

“It’s not a bomb or an attack. It is a tragic accident,” President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who visited the site, said in a tweet.

Cuba’s presidential office said that 50 adults and 14 children were admitted to hospitals, the Miami Herald reported.

Update 5:36 p.m. EDT May 6: Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel confirmed that nine people were killed, the Miami Herald reported. The Cuban presidential office’s Twitter account also confirmed that another 40 people were injured and were receiving medical care in several Havana hospitals, according to the newspaper.

“There was a stink, like a chemical, that burned your nose,” Miriam Díaz, 56, a Havana resident who lives behind the hotel, told The New York Times. “We couldn’t get out because the door wouldn’t open.”

Update 2:42 p.m. EDT May 6: AP is reporting that at least 40 people have been injured in the explosion and eight people killed.

Original report: Cuban news, ACN, according to AP, has published photos showing damage to Hotel Saratoga with a ton of dust.

It is not clear what caused the explosion, according to CNN. Buses and cars outside the hotel also appeared to be damaged. The school next door was evacuated.

Hotel Saratoga is a five-star hotel in the Old Havana section of the city. It was built in the 1930s, according to CNN, with 96 rooms. It reopened n 2005 after it was remodeled, the hotel says on the hotel’s website.

No information has been released about deaths or injuries.

Check back for more on this developing story.