(Havana) Four days after the accidental gas explosion that blew up Havana’s iconic Saratoga Hotel, killing at least 42, Cuban rescuers continued to search through the rubble on Tuesday.

“It’s sad, because there are a large number of deaths”, “and also because there are children”, laments actor Teheran Aguilar, 46.

Popular on the island for the television series Stories of Fire, where he plays the role of a firefighter, the actor has worked for several days at the site of the explosion as a volunteer firefighter, wearing a white helmet and black and yellow coveralls.

Not far from him, Edel Llopiz, 48, hugs Yomy, his rescue dog, a 12-year-old Labrador. “I made my contribution, with my dog, who played a big role in this battle and in facing this pain for our country,” he testifies.

“I hope the country will recover, that we will recover, yes I’m sure,” said this specialist in canine techniques.

Despite his experience in a forensic ward, Raul Leon, 53, remains shaken by the drama: “It’s shocking because I’ve never seen anything like it, but hey, we’re here, trying to make as best we can, to support families to reunite with their loved ones.”

Friday morning, the luxury hotel in Old Havana was in the final preparations before its reopening scheduled for Tuesday, after works and two years of closure due to the pandemic. About 50 employees were on site. A tank truck carried out the gas supply.

Suddenly a loud explosion and a thick cloud of smoke: the first four floors flew to pieces.

“This explosion is the strongest I’ve felt in my life. I’m still in shock,” said Maria Victoria Salomon, 60, a teacher at a school near Saratoga.

With broken voice and watery eyes, Nairobi Evora, 36, has spent the past few days coordinating ambulances to take the injured to various hospitals.

“It touches me deeply, because my mother worked for many years here [at the Saratoga Hotel]. Many of his colleagues are dead, and I am here and I try to contribute my grain of sand. We couldn’t save them all, but we saved a lot.”

In his Red Cross uniform, Inti Guevara, 50, is also tired after the long days of work, but remains determined.

“I will stay here until the last moment, until they say there are no more victims” under the rubble. “It’s my hope that even if this is the last [person to be rescued from the rubble], that they are rescued alive.”



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