Fire at Cuba fuel depot leaves 49 injured: officials

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HAVANA (AFP) - A fire at a fuel depot in western Cuba sparked by a lightning strike has injured 49 people, two of them critically, officials said Saturday (Aug 6).

The official newspaper Granma attributed the fire, which began Friday night, to an "electric discharge" that struck the depot on the outskirts of the city of Matanzas, 100km east of Havana.

The fire spread overnight from one fuel tank to another, state television reported.

The Cuban presidency said on Twitter that the toll of 49 included seven people in serious condition.

"Apparently there was a fault in the lightning-rod system, which could not withstand the energy from the electrical discharge," Granma quoted a senior official of state-owned Cubapetroleo as saying.

The depot supplies the Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant, but service to the plant has not stopped, the official said.

The fire occurred at a time when the island - with an outdated energy network and persistent fuel shortages - has faced mounting difficulties in meeting increased energy demands amid severe summer heat.

Since May, the authorities have imposed energy blackouts of up to 12 hours a day in some regions - sparking at least 20 protests across the island's interior.

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