Eight people were killed and about 30 hurt in a powerful explosion Friday that partly destroyed a five-star hotel in central Havana, the Cuban government said, adding the blast was likely caused by a gas leak.
Rescuers combed through the rubble looking for survivers after the late-morning explosion sent a massive cloud of dust and smoke billowing from the prestigious Saratoga Hotel.
The blast tore off large parts of the facade, blew out windows, and destroyed cars parked outside the hotel, which is known for having hosted celebrities such as Madonna and Beyonce.
"So far, eight people have died and about 30 are hospitalized," the Cuban presidency tweeted.
The first four floors of the establishment, which was empty of guests while being renovated, were gutted.
"Initial findings indicate that the explosion was caused by a gas leak," the presidency said.
- Rescue underway -
Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene and police cordoned off the area, dispersing people who swarmed to the site.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel, accompanied by Prime Minister Manuel Marrero and National Assembly President Esteban Lazo arrived at the scene as the rescue operation got underway.
According to the website of the Saratoga Hotel, it is an upmarket establishment with 96 rooms, two bars, two restaurants, a spa and gym.
Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, meanwhile, said President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador would not cancel a trip to Cuba planned for Sunday.
"Our solidarity to the victims and affected, as well as to the people of that dear brotherly people," the minister tweeted.