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Death toll of Havana hotel explosion rises to 35

A rescue worker and his search dog are transported on the shovel of an earthmover to search for survivors at the site of a deadly explosion two days prior that destroyed the five-star Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana, Cuba, Sunday, May 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)

HAVANA (AP) — More bodies were pulled from the ruins of a luxury hotel in Cuba’s capital on Monday, bringing the official death toll of a powerful explosion at the iconic building to 35.

Cuba’s Fire Department Chief Luis Guzmán told state TV that three more bodies were recovered overnight as search crews with dogs hunted for hours through debris in the 19th century structure of the Hotel Saratoga.

The Ministry of Health later said the toll of dead had risen to 35, with 20 injured patients still hospitalized.

The 96-room, five-star hotel in Old Havana, was preparing to reopen after being closed for two years when an apparent gas leak ignited, blowing the outer walls into the busy, midmorning streets just a block from the country’s Capitol building on Friday.

Several nearby structures also were damaged, including the historic Marti Theater and the Calvary Baptist Church, headquarters for the denomination in western Cuba.

Authorities said the cause of the explosion at the hotel owned by Grupo de Turismo Gaviota SA was still under investigation.