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Help from Mexico, Venezuela arrives as Cuba battles deadly depot fire

Robust job gains surprised economists, but coupled with wage gains could stoke concerns about soaring US inflation. ©AFP

Matanzas (Cuba) (AFP) - Aircraft, firefighters and specialists from Mexico and Venezuela arrived in Cuba Sunday to help put out a massive fire at a fuel depot that has left at least one person dead, 121 people injured and 17 firefighters missing.

The aid teams landed at the airport in the seaside resort of Varadero, 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of the city of Matanzas, where two fuel tanks are still burning uncontrollably since a lightning strike sparked the blaze on Friday, authorities said.

A Mexican Air Force Boeing 737-700 landed with 60 military rescue workers and 16 technicians from Petroleos Mexicanos on board, while equipment and firefighting chemicals arrived in a second aircraft. 

"We are here to help in risk prevention and to suffocate the fire with water and foam," said Brigadier General Juan Bravo, in charge of the expedition.

A Conviasa flight also arrived from Venezuela with 35 firefighters, specialists and technicians from Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A.(PDVSA), carrying 20 tons of foam and other chemicals.

Heavy flames and a tall column of black smoke were rising at the supertanker base in an industrial zone of Matanzas, a city some 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Havana.

Some 1,900 people have been evacuated from the affected area, officials have said.

Provincial health official Luis Armando Wong told a press conference Saturday evening a first body had been recovered at the site. 

Eighty-five of the wounded have been discharged while 36 are still hospitalized, five of them in critical condition, according to the latest medical reports.

The injured included Energy Minister Livan Arronte.

The president's office said 17 firefighters -- those "who were closest" to the fire -- were missing.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel has expressed thanks to the governments of Mexico, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Argentina and Chile for their help.

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