HAVANA — Fifty-one people were working to get the Hotel Saratoga ready for its scheduled reopening on Tuesday after a two-year pandemic break. The explosion that ripped apart the elegant building killed at least 23 of them – along with 19 other people – a spokesman for the hotel company said.
Searchers on Tuesday continued to hunt through the ruins for people who remain missing – including two maids and a cook – as experts began to consider the fate of the 19th-century building, a former warehouse that had been converted into a hotel early in the last century.
Roberto Enriquez, a spokesman for the military-owned Gaviota tourism company, said experts’ initial estimates are that 80 percent of the hotel was damaged by Friday’s explosion, which hurled tons of concrete chunks into the busy streets just a block from the country’s Capitol and seriously harmed neighboring structures.
He said that when rescue efforts finish, authorities would look more deeply into what to do with the structure.
The hotel workers who died included executives, technicians, cooks, reception desk workers and security personnel, among others.
Authorities have said they suspect the cause was a leak of gas as a tank truck was servicing the building.
The Ministry of Health said the overall death toll had risen to 42, including at least one Spanish tourist. Seventeen people remained hospitalized.
The head of the Communist Party for Havana, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, said that 38 homes had been affected by the explosion and 95 people had to be relocated, according to the official Cubadebate website.
He said one of the neighboring buildings would have to be demolished.