A lightning strike has sparked a fire at an oil storage facility in Cuba, and the flames are now raging out of control.

Four explosions have been reported at the site in the city of Matanzas, and almost 80 people have been injured.

Seventeen firefighters who were in a nearby area and trying to stop the blaze from spreading have been reported missing.

Cuba’s government has asked for help from international experts in “friendly countries” who have experience in the oil sector.

As helicopters flew overhead to drop water, a dense column of black smoke billowed from the site and spread westwards towards the capital Havana.

The storage facility is equipped with eight giant tanks that hold oil which is used to fuel electricity generating plants.

Lightning initially hit one tank, but the blaze later spread to a second – and the accident comes as Cuba continues to grapple with fuel shortages.

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Adiel Gonzalez, who lies close by, said: “I was in the gym when I felt the first explosion. A column of smoke and terrible fire rose through the skies.”

The Dubrocq neighbourhood, which is closest to the fire, has now been evacuated – with some opting to leave districts that are a little further away.

Mantanzas is home to a population of about 140,000 people, and President Miguel Diaz-Canel travelled to the area on Saturday.

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