Cuba asks for US help to rebuild destroyed fuel depot

HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) — Cuba has asked the United States for help in restoring a major fuel storage plant devastated by a massive fire that left 16 people dead, the island nation’s foreign ministry said on Friday.

The request was made during an online meeting Wednesday between experts from the two countries exploring “possible ways of cooperation to rehabilitate the worst-affected areas”, the ministry said.

The massive fire earlier this month started after lightning struck a tank at the depot outside the western city of Matanzas, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Havana.

Four of the eight tanks at the depot — each with the capacity to hold 52 million litres of fuel — collapsed during the blaze, which injured 132 people.

All 16 people killed were firefighters tackling the inferno.

The damage to Cuba’s largest such storage facility has badly affected the country’s ability to store crude.

The Cuban delegation asked about “the most innovative techniques and procedures” used by the US Environmental Protection Agency as well as by companies linked to the oil sector and other agencies, the foreign ministry said.

The United States had previously offered technical advice over the telephone.

But Cuban experts admitted to having “limited experience” in these types of fires, the ministry said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has already pledged to help rebuild the facility.

Built in the 1980s, the Matanzas depot is considered fundamental to Cuba’s fuel logistics.

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