Havana — The elegant Hotel Saratoga was to reopen in Havana on Tuesday after a two-year pandemic break. Instead, it was a day to mourn 43 people known to have died in an explosion that tore the building.
Rescuers continued to search for the ruins for other victims as experts began to consider the fate of the 19th-century building, which was a former warehouse converted into a hotel at the beginning of the last century.
Roberto Enríquez, a spokesman for the military-owned Gaviota tourism company that runs Saratoga, said experts initially estimated that 80% of the hotels were damaged by the Friday explosion. The capital of the country and the severely damaged neighboring structures.
He said authorities would investigate more deeply what to do with the structure once the rescue operation was completed.
Authorities reported the 43rd body found on Tuesday evening, but it was not immediately known if the latest victims were working at the hotel.
Earlier that day, Enriquez said 51 people were preparing for the hotel’s reinstatement, of which 23 were among the confirmed deaths. Executives and maids, cooks and receptionists, security guards, and technicians. He said the three workers remained missing and believed to be buried under the debris.
Officials said they suspected a gas leak was the cause when the tank truck was servicing the building.
The Ministry of Health said Tuesday evening that the total death toll, including at least one Spanish tourist, had risen to 43. 17 people remained in the hospital.
According to the official website of Cubadebate, Havana Communist Party leader Luis Antonio Torres Iribal said 38 homes were affected by the explosion and 95 people had to relocate.
He said one of the adjacent buildings had to be demolished.