Cuba Asks US For Technical Help to Clean Up Oil Depot After Fire

Cuba has asked the United States for technical help in restoring a major oil storage plant after a massive fire at the facility, killing 16 people.

Cuba’s foreign ministry said Friday that experts from Cuba and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency met online Wednesday to talk about exploring “possible ways of cooperation to rehabilitate the worst-affected areas” of the plant in Cuba’s western port of Matanzas.

The foreign ministry described the meeting as a “professional and fruitful exchange” and said the Cuban delegation asked about “the most innovative techniques and procedures” used by the EPA as well as oil companies to clean up such disasters.

A lightning strike earlier this month started the fire at the oil storage facility in Matanzas, about 100 kilometers from Havana.

The strike ignited an oil storage tank and the fire soon spread to three more tanks. It took firefighters a week to extinguish the blaze, which caused four of the eight tanks at the facility to collapse.

Sixteen firefighters were killed trying to stop the blaze and more than 130 people were injured by the fire.

Cuba’s government has described the fire as the worst blaze in the country’s history.

The governments of Mexico and Venezuela sent teams to help local firefighters put out the blaze. The United States offered technical advice by phone.

Cuba’s port of Matanzas receives crude oil and fuel imports, much of which are used to generate electricity on the island.

Damage to the facility has greatly affected the country’s ability to store crude.

The fire came as Cuba was already facing shortages of electricity and fuel that led authorities to impose energy blackouts. The power outages and economic troubles helped spark anti-government protests last year.

Some information in this report came from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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