Cuba unable to identify remains of 14 firefighters after fuel plant blaze

Havana (AFP) – The remains of 14 firefighters who died combatting a major blaze at a Cuban fuel depot last week are too badly burned to be identified, a specialist said Wednesday.

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In total, 16 firefighters were killed and 17 others hospitalized due to the massive fire in Matanzas, on Cuba's northern coast.

"Given that the remains found were subjected to high temperatures for a long time, it is not possible to apply DNA extraction," Jorge Gonzalez Perez, president of the Cuban Society of Legal Medicine, told a press conference.

The fire first broke out on August 5, when lightning struck a tank containing 26 million liters of fuel.

Early the next morning, a major explosion occurred when a second fuel tank caught fire.

Gonzalez Perez said that at the time there were 30 people near the second tank, and that testimony from the survivors allowed investigators to locate remains of those who perished.

"We have explained to the relatives that we have 14 groups of skeletal remains, which correspond to the 14 who are missing, but we cannot differentiate one from the other and name any of those who are there," he said.

Four of the eight tanks at the depot -- each with the capacity to hold 50 million liters (13.2 million gallons) of fuel -- collapsed during the blaze, which was finally extinguished late last week.