Cuba’s government says it has accepted ‘technical advice’ offered by the United States to help island authorities put out a raging fire that threatens to engulf an oil storage facility at the port of Matanzas, in what could be one of the rare examples of cooperation between the two countries in recent years.
“We deeply appreciate the condolences and expressions of assistance from individuals and organizations in the United States regarding the #Matanzas incident, including from the US government, which offered technical advice, a proposal already in the hands of specialists for good coordination,” Carlos Fernández de Cossío, Cuba’s deputy foreign minister, said on Twitter.
Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel usually takes to Twitter to speak out against US sanctions against Cuba and criticize the Biden administration. But the severity of the blaze and firefighters’ failed attempt to contain the flames so far prompted authorities to accept the offer with a public message of thanks.
“We express our deep gratitude to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile, who promptly offered material assistance in solidarity with this complex situation,” Diaz-Canel said. . “We also appreciate the offer of technical advice from the United States”
The State Department did not provide details of what was offered to Cuba.
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An agency spokesperson said the Biden administration was “closely monitoring the situation, including any humanitarian needs that may emerge.”
“The U.S. embargo allows U.S. persons to provide disaster relief and response to Cuba,” the spokesperson said.
Earlier, the US Embassy in Havana said it was in contact with Cuban authorities and sent its condolences to the victims of the fire, which has injured 77 so far.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has become a close ally of Cuba, also sent workers from state oil company Pemex to help put out the blaze.
The fire started around 7 p.m. Friday when lightning struck a crude oil storage tank in the unloading area of the port of Matanzas, Cuban authorities said. Despite firefighters’ efforts to control it, there were at least four explosions in the early hours of Saturday, and flames spread to a second tank.
State media shared footage showing a Cuban Armed Forces helicopter attempting to throw water at the flames.
This story was originally published August 6, 2022 5:27 p.m.