Havana hotel blast toll rises to 30

HAVANA -- The death toll from an accidental explosion at a luxury hotel in central Havana rose to 30 on Sunday, authorities said, as firefighters continued to comb through the rubble. Twenty-four people were being treated in hospital, said the public health ministry, after the powerful blast Friday thought to have been caused by a gas leak. Seven were critically injured and another six were in a serious condition.

The hotel had been closed for business during renovation work, and many victims of the late-morning explosion were construction workers or hotel employees preparing for its reopening, which was to have been next week. The first four floors of the establishment, which were closed to guests while being refurbished, were gutted in the late-morning blast that sent dust and smoke billowing into the air and rubble tumbling to the ground. The explosion tore off large parts of the facade, blew out windows and destroyed cars parked outside the five-star hotel, known for having hosted celebrities such as Madonna, Beyonce, Mick Jagger and Rihanna.

The dome of a nearby Baptist church also collapsed. A 29-year-old Spanish tourist, who had been walking nearby, was among the fatalities that also included four children. The tourist's husband was injured in the blast that an official said happened while a gas tank was being refilled by a tanker truck.

Officials from the United States, Canada, the European Union, China, Russia and Venezuela have sent messages of condolence.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador arrived in Havana on Saturday on a Central American tour focused on emigration. -- Agence France-Presse