Pope Francis wishes ‘hope in the risen Christ’ to victims of Cuba oil fire, explosions

francis Daniel Ibáñez/CNA

Pope Francis said Monday he is spiritually close to those hurt or killed in a fire at an oil facility in Matanzas, a city on the northwestern shore of Cuba.

The fire, which began with an Aug. 5 lightning strike, has set off multiple explosions, leaving at least one person dead and 125 injured, the Washington Post reported.

According to state media, almost 5,000 people have been evacuated from the region. The Washington Post also said 17 firefighters are missing.

Cuba’s Ministry of Energy and Mining said the situation became worse Aug. 7 with wind. At least two tanks have exploded or collapsed and a third tank is ablaze, according to reports.

“The Holy Father is closely following the news of the unfortunate accident that has caused a fire and several explosions at the Matanzas supertanker base,” says an Aug. 8 telegram signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.

“Pope Francis assures [the victims] of his spiritual closeness to the Cuban people and to all the families of those affected; and prays to the Lord to give them strength in this moment of pain and to sustain the work of firefighting and rescuing,” the letter continued. “With these sentiments, he cordially imparts to them the comforting apostolic blessing, as a pledge of hope in the risen Christ.”

Cuba is experiencing an energy crisis, causing frequent electrical blackouts and leading some residents to repeat the anti-government protests of last summer.

The island nation is also facing a severe fuel shortage.

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