Smoke clouds Cuba's sky as fire rages on

Lightning striking through smoke from fuel storage tanks in Cuba on Monday. Helicopters scrambled to contain a days-old blaze that felled a third tank at a fuel depot in the country, as the search continued for 16 missing firefighters.

According to an official update, the confirmed toll from the fire was one 60-year-old fireman dead and 24 people hospitalised.

More than 100 others were injured, most suffering burn wounds, and about 5,000 people have been evacuated from around the disaster zone, reported the authorities.

The fire on the outskirts of Matanzas, a city of 140,000 people 100km east of Havana, broke out late last Friday after lightning struck one of eight tanks at the depot.

On Monday, the governor of the western Matanzas province said the blaze had spread to a third tank. "The third tank also collapsed, after the second spilled its fuel" as it caved in on Sunday, governor Mario Sabines told state television.

Deputy fire chief Alexander Avalos Jorge said later on Monday that as a result of that collapse, a fourth tank has also been affected.

Mr Sabines said the teams were preparing an operation to douse the flames with foam, "but this could take a while".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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