Graphic testimony of the fire in Matanzas, on the other side of the Bay.

Photo: Miriel Santana

On Friday, August 5, just when the first explosion occurred at the Matanzas Supertanker Base, Miriel Santana was preparing to go to a Frank Delgado concert at the Sauto Theater.

There was no light, and he was worried if they would give it or not.

He lives near there, facing the bay, the same bay that stopped being blue some time later, because of the smoke, the fire, the sadness.

A friend who lives at the entrance of the city calls him and tells him to stand on the balcony and look at the Industrial Zone, where a supertanker was emitting smoke.

Since you enter Matanzas, this base is quite evident.

"The first thing that stands out to you, because they are quite large," he tells me.

Miriel could already see the column of smoke that was walking on the summit, that is, on the television antenna;

there in Versailles.  

An hour after this, the first explosion occurred, and Miriel looked out onto the balcony again.

That was impressive, but she thought, her friends thought, that it was something that she could solve soon.

Even so, she began to record with her phone, took out her camera, took a photo, and it stayed that way, because "after that flash, the situation calmed down."  

"When we were inside the concert, another explosion occurred, which we did not see, that lit up the entire sky and later, at dawn, when I returned home, another explosion."

On Friday, August 5, Miriel went to bed thinking that the next day everything would be solved, with hope. 

But Saturday came, and the calls from friends who live outside the country were bitter, scared by what was happening, it was bitter to wake up like that.

***

He belongs to the ICAIC Independent Audiovisual Creator Registry as an audiovisual producer.

He was director of photography for the Danzoneando TV program, broadcast by Cubavisión.

Miriel Santana is an independent photographer and audiovisual producer who has left a graphic testimony of this unprecedented event in Cuba.

Some of the photos and videos of him have spread from network to network, from medium to medium.

He has done his own social media coverage of him and people thank him for that.

He still stands there.

He has hardly slept, just as the firefighters and rescuers, the journalists, all the people who have arrived at the scene of the accident have not slept

.

In fact, his answers arrive at 1:52 a.m. this Tuesday.

On Monday, during the day, it was impossible for him to answer.

The situation was getting out of control all the time. 

***

From the balcony, he felt himself burning.

She was approximately three kilometers from the fire.

Photo: Miriel Satana.

Miriel lives at the entrance to Versalles, on Via Blanca street.

Versailles is relatively close to the Super Tanker Base. 

“I went outside to take pictures and, honestly, every time I pressed the shutter it hurt.

I mean, I didn't want to portray what I was seeing.

I had that feeling all that first day.”

Every time she took a picture she didn't like it.

“I say that I like to portray beauty.

I am not one to portray misery.”

She took three photos, posted them, and went back to her house.

When his friends called him to question why he wasn't still out on the street taking pictures, he replied: "I don't like what I'm seeing, I don't want to take those kinds of photos, it's not the kind of photo I take."

Until now, Miriel had never done photojournalism.

On Sunday something changed.

"I had another feeling of duty to report what was happening, since I had a privileged position from where I was and that was when I started taking photos."

So much so, that every two hours, approximately, she updates from her profiles on social networks about the situation. 

A dense smoke screen is seen over Versailles.

I am moving to an area further away from there because the smell of fuel is felt #Matanzas pic.twitter.com/iFtVJrvUap

– Miriel Santana (@SantanaMiriel) August 9, 2022

***

Miriel prefers urban landscape photography.

She likes to contextualize the people within these.

Photo: Miriel Santana.

He says he is stoic: “I don't express much emotion;

I'm not one to scare very easily."

He says that there was a lot of panic, especially in the first hours.

“The feeling in Matanzas was that the entire city or part of the city was going to explode.

We are going to explode with the tanks.” 

But he knew that this was impossible: "In reality, in the position I was in, the only thing that could affect us was the smoke and that was what I always watched." 

But he lost that lack of fear when he saw the explosion of the third tank: “I saw that the flames had increased and I thought that another explosion like the one that occurred the day before could occur.

The fatal one, the explosion of tank two.” 

From the balcony, he felt himself burning.

She was approximately three kilometers from the fire.

“For a moment I thought to stop recording and go inside the house.

I did not do it.

But the sensation was to be sitting in front of a campfire and suddenly the wind would turn, and the candle would go up above you”.

At that moment, the only thing he thought about was the people who were there, much closer to that explosion. 

The most stressful moment of all was when he had to evacuate with his girlfriend.

The people running, the fire trucks, the cranes, the trucks, the buses, crowded together.

It was quite chaotic. 

***

"I have been from a distance, from the other side of the bay, when in reality the difficult part is on the other side." Photo: Miriel Santana.

Santana belongs to the ICAIC Independent Audiovisual Creator Registry as an audiovisual producer.

He was director of photography for the

Danzoneando TV

program , broadcast by

Cubavisión

.

I then ask him about the quality of his graphic testimony, in the midst of so much immediacy: 

“It's having a phone.

Social networks give you that ability to be immediate and that is the importance of social networks, especially for a person like me, who is not linked to any media outlet, to be able to show their reality, to be able to show their information”.

Miriel prefers urban landscape photography.

She likes to contextualize the people within these.

But there is a fire in the Industrial Zone, uncontrolled.

He says that these days have been exhausting.

For him, for all of Matanzas, for Cuba.

It is very sad. 

He is not looking for a specific photo: “I let photography surprise me, I let the environment surprise me, let the world surprise me.

My job is, perhaps, to look for a photo where there isn't one and in part that is the job of a photographer, to find a photo where many people don't even imagine that there is a photo”. 

“All the fatigue that I have and the wear and tear is insignificant with that of those who have had to face that.

I haven't exposed myself to anything, I haven't been there either.

I have been from a distance, from the other side of the bay, when in reality the difficult part is on the other side”, he tells me at almost two in the morning this Tuesday, when the flames have begun to spread strongly.

Nobody sleeps. 

The most stressful moment of all was when he had to evacuate with his girlfriend.

Photo: Miriel Santana.

"Every time I pressed the shutter it hurt. I mean, I didn't want to portray what I was seeing."

Photo: Miriel Santana.

 Listen to his testimony here