14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 3 November 2016 — A raging fire reduced to ashes this Wednesday all of the belongings of a family at 263 Mercaderes Street, in Old Havana. The incident caused no fatalities. The family is temporarily housed in nearby Casa del Pedagogo, while insisting it will not accept living in a shelter.
The fire broke out around noon, when the house where two women and a 4-year-old girl lived was empty. One of its residents, Francis Marais Acosta Ramirez, 21, had gone to the market at the time the fire started. “I have no strength to speak,” she tearfully told 14ymedio on Thursday. “So many years of effort and sacrifice turned into ashes, I still can not believe it,” she exclaimed as she pointed out all her belongings transformed in a gray pile outside the building.
“We have lost all our appliances and even the money we saved to buy an air conditioner that was stored next to the clothing,” complained Acosta Ramirez, who has received the condolences and solidarity of her closest neighbors.
“The firefighters soon arrived,” says a neighbor while cleaning out the water that had entered her home during the efforts to extinguish the fire.
The images of the flames coming from the windows of the third floor of La Cruz Verde building quickly spread through social networks. The location of the property on one of the busiest streets in Havana’s historic center facilitated the recording and subsequent dissemination of the incident.
The eight apartments on the third floor were also affected, along with those on the floor below.
On Thursday morning several social workers from the Municipal Labor and Social Security Department came to the building to quantify the damage. Odalis Martinez, a social worker, explained that her task was to assess the situation and provide a summary to the directors of the Council of the Municipal Administration (CAM) of the People’s Power. “They will be the ones who respond,” said the young woman, who explained that social workers are only “mediators between the government and the people, nothing more.”
Jose Luis Garcia, a resident affected by the incident, said the damage caused by heat, fumes and smoke spread across all the housing units. “I was not here when it happened, but a wave of heat came through the bathroom window that melted my blender and affected other appliances in the house”.
“The door fell out and since yesterday we are without electricity, water and gas, because all these facilities were destroyed,” insists a neighbor. If the damage is not dealt with promptly, the neighbors plan to address the government agencies to demand a response.
Another neighbor who requested anonymity said that the power grid of the building was in poor condition. “For years we have been suffering from the poor condition of the cables, but we had to fix the breakdowns ourselves and problems still persist.”