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First responders working the scene of the Hotel Saratoga explosion in Havana are searching through the rubble Monday for signs of survivors as Cuban authorities now say 31 were killed in the blast, including four children.
The Hotel Saratoga, a five-star 96-room hotel in Old Havana, was preparing to reopen after being closed for two years when an apparent gas leak ignited Friday, blowing parts of its outer walls into the streets just a block from the country’s Capitol building.
“Congratulations to the members of the Red Cross and all our gratitude for the sensitive and much needed work they do,” Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel said in a tweet Monday morning. “Thank you for the delivery, for the vigilance, in these hard days that we are experiencing after the explosion of the Hotel Saratoga.”
VIDEO SHOWS AFTERMATH OF HOTEL SARATOGA BLAST
As of Sunday evening, the Cuban government said 31 people were confirmed dead following the explosion and 24 remain hospitalized.
Cuba’s Health Ministry said the dead included four minors, a pregnant woman and a Spanish tourist, whose companion was seriously injured.
Nineteen families had reported people missing as of Saturday evening, but authorities did not say Sunday whether the number had changed.
Search crews with dogs were reported to be combing the rubble for signs of life.
“Preliminary investigations indicate that the explosion was caused by a gas leak,” Cuba’s government said in a tweet on Friday.
A large crane was seen hoisting a charred gas tanker out of the rubble Saturday, according to the Associated Press.
Burials for victims had begun, municipal authorities said, while some people still waited for news of missing friends and relatives.
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Several nearby structures also were damaged in the explosion, including the historic Marti Theater and the Calvary Baptist Church, headquarters for the denomination in western Cuba.
The church said on its Facebook page that the building suffered “significant structural damage, with several collapsed or cracked walls and columns (and) the ceiling partially collapsed,” though no church workers were hurt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.