HOTELS: Hotel Saratoga in Havana, Cuba. Explosion kills 22 workers
This is tragic and feels more personal since I stayed at the hotel back in 2011 on a visit to Cuba and Mexico with my now husband for one of his ‘0’ birthdays.
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Dead and injured
22 people have died, and at least 74 are being treated in hospital after a large explosion blew out the façade of the Saratoga Hotel in historic central Havana, capital of Cuba today Saturday 7 May, 4 days shy of its reopening after extensive renovations.
The hotel was closed to the public at the time of the explosion, but workers were inside completing renovation work. Windows were blown out of surrounding buildings. Building collapse is not uncommon in central Havanna, as beautiful colonial buildings, which have remained un-maintained for decades collapse. However, this explosion eclipsed those collapses and drew tens of thousands of people who have documented the explosion on social media.
The explosion is thought to have been caused by a gas leak, and not because of a bomb or terrorist explosion.
The 96-room neo-classical-style hotel is in a relatively high traffic popular tourist area opposite the Capitolio building. It was renovated after the fall of the Soviet Union, and for a time was considered the city’s top hotel, patronised by government officials and celebrities. We stayed there in June 2011, preceded by the likes of Madonna.
This tragedy is a blow to a tourist dependent economy that has been devastated by COVID. Cuba with trade restrictions imposed by the USA relies on tourism to supply hard foreign currency.
I love digital, except when my phone dies, which happened to me on the last night of my recent visit to New Zealand
We loved our stay at this hotel back in 2011. It was a little quirky, with additional floors having been sandwiched into the elegant façade, making the tops of arched windows on some floors appear at ground level. We saw 3 or 4 rooms before we made our final choice. The hotel also smelt slightly damp and musty, which given the climate is to be expected.
Although at that time back in 2011, lately renovated, it was imbued with old-world charm and the inference of cigars and leather. Having been shown through most room types in the hotel, we heavily tipped the Head bellhop and were rewarded with exceptional greetings and service for the rest of our stay.
It had a rooftop pool and bar, where we spent many evening hours, not to mention drinks with our UK friends while enjoying the view over Havanna, especially of the Capitolio and the Theatre Naçionale.
This loss of life is beyond tragic. Fortunately, Cuba has a great health system, so I am sure those injured and hospitalised will be receiving the best medical care.
Visit Cuba if you can. You will be met with music and laughter, and amazing hospitality and won’t be disappointed.