Cuba. The number of people killed in the explosion of a hotel in Havana rises to 40 as more bodies are pulled from the ruins | world news

The official number of people killed in a powerful explosion at an iconic hotel in Cuba’s capital, Havana, has risen to 40.

Search teams with dogs continued to search the ruins of the Saratoga Hotel after an explosion on Friday apparently caused by a natural gas leak.

Dr Julio Guerra, head of hospital services at the Ministry of Health, said other bodies had been found.

He added that 18 people remained in hospital with injuries from the blast.

The five-star, 96-room hotel in Old Havana was preparing to reopen after being closed for two years before the blast collapsed its lower floors, leaving dozens of people trapped, killed or injured.

Among those killed are four children, a Spanish tourist and a pregnant woman, local authorities said.

Javier Martinez, a Havana city official, told reporters Monday morning that the bodies of four hotel employees were discovered overnight.

Representatives of Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA, which owns the hotel, said on Saturday that 51 hotel employees were inside the hotel when the blast happened, along with two people working on renovations.

Relatives of those still missing searched for their loved ones at morgue and in hospitals.

The hotel in the Old Havana neighborhood was renovated by a British company after the fall of the Soviet Union and is popular among visiting government officials and celebrities such as Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

Photo: AP

The luxury hotel contains bars, restaurants, a spa, gym and rooftop pool, according to its website.

Authorities said an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the explosion at the hotel, which is owned by Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA, one of the companies run by the Cuban military.

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Several nearby structures were also damaged, including the historic Marti Theater and Calvary Baptist Church, the denomination’s headquarters in western Cuba.

Joshua B. Speller