Peter Elias: Cousin’s dream ‘shattered’ in Cuba blast

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Workers remove debris from the site of Friday’s deadly explosion that destroyed the five-star Hotel Saratoga, in Havana, Cuba on Saturday. – AP Photo

Designer Peter Elias has joined the international community in sending condolences to the families of at least 26 people who were killed in an explosion at Cuba’s historic Hotel Saratoga on Friday.

Initial reports suggest a natural gas leak caused the blast at the 96-room hotel.

While the 19th century hotel was under renovation and did not have any guests, the area in front of the hotel was busy at the time of explosion.

The deceased included four children and a pregnant woman.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Elias said his cousin Amado Fahkre was one of the hotel’s investors.

Elias explained, “My cousin Amado visited and fell in love with Cuba about 30 years ago. One of his investments was the Hotel Saratoga.

“He headed the restoration/remodelling of the 96-room neo-classical-style hotel after the fall of the Soviet Union.”

Considered one of Havana’s most luxurious hotels, past high-profile guests at the hotel include Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and high-ranking US government officials.

Under renovation for the past several months, the hotel was scheduled to be reopened on Tuesday.

Elias said, “The hotel had been set for a post-pandemic reopening in a few days.

“The powerful explosion tore the facade from the hotel, sending plumes of dust into the air and leaving rubble strewn across the street in the historic centre of Havana

“When I communicated with Amado, he was practical sharing that this was the closing of a chapter that was very important to him, and he invested so much love in this project. All gone now.”

During a news conference on Saturday, Cuban officials said 53 workers were inside the hotel at the time. So far, 11 of the workers have been confirmed dead with six hospitalised and 13 missing.

Relatives of missing people have been gathering at the site while search and rescue teams comb through rubble.

Sunday Newsday tried to call Elias but was unsuccessful