Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel says the powerful explosion that erupted at a high-end hotel in Havana on Friday (May 6) was not due to an attack or bomb.
As reported by CNN, the sudden explosion that caused sections of the 96-room Hotel Saratoga to collapse was a "regrettable accident,” Díaz-Canel said in a statement.
Posting to Twitter, Diaz-Canel, who went to the site Friday, said the early morning blast that almost demolished the 19th century building in Old Havana was caused by a gas leak.
Efforts are still underway to rescue individuals that may be trapped under the rubble. The blast killed at least 22 people, including a child, and injured dozens when the explosion blew away outer walls from the hotel, according to The Associated Press.
Hotel was set to reopen this week
No tourists were staying at the hotel when the blast occurred because the property was undergoing renovations, Havana Gov. Reinaldo Garcia Zapata told the Communist Party newspaper Granma.
The hotel was expected to reopen to guests on Tuesday (May 10) after closing at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, according to Tourism Minister Juan Carlos Garcia.
Hotel Saratoga was last renovated in 2005 as part of Cuba's revival of Old Havana and is owned by the Cuban military's tourism business arm, Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA.
The company told the Associated Press that it was investigating the cause of the blast.
The Government of Canada on Friday updated its travel advice page, acknowledging that it had received information regarding an explosion at the Hotel Saratoga.
But the travel risk level for Cuba has not changed, with Ottawa advising Canadians to “take normal security precautions.”
“Significant damage to the building and debris in the immediate area have been reported,” the Canadian government said in a notice posted to their website.
Canadians that are in the vicinity of the Hotel Saratoga are being asked by Ottawa to respect the security perimeter, follow the instructions of local authorities and monitor local media to stay informed about the evolving situation.