14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 28 January 2020 — Three girls died on Monday when a balcony collapsed in Old Havana, between Vives and Revillagigedo streets, in the Jesús María neighborhood. The neighbors said that the collapse of the structure occurred around half past four in the afternoon when the children had left school and were on the sidewalk rehearsing for the celebrations for the birth of José Martí.
This morning the police were still around and the yellow hazard tape and a crane remained at the scene, as this newspaper has verified.
“The girls were just starting their lives, those parents must be shattered, they were in sixth grade, how many dreams lost by imprudence. Look, the crane arrived, now they come to demolish it with the crane? Now that it already fell? They should also go to the corner and prop it up, so this movie doesn’t happen right away in the next block,” says an old lady with tears in her eyes while talking to a friend.
The three girls, María Karla Fuentes and Lisnavy Valdés Rodríguez, 12, and Rocío García Nápoles, 11, were studying at the Quintín Banderas elementary school. Two of the victims died instantly and the third in the hospital. The neighbors claim that the rear of the building had begun to be demolished, but the area was not marked as would have been necessary to avoid situations like this.
“I do not understand, why are there so many police and all that now, that should have been avoided,” said a neighbor on Vives Street this morning when a car from the operational guard arrived to investigate the event.
“I was doing something with my phone and suddenly I felt the rumble, I ran to help, but you couldn’t see them, the pieces of the balcony were huge and two of the girls died on the spot, the one that came out best died as soon as she arrived at the hospital, after she left here in her mother’s arms,” says another neighbor on the block.
Around 9:20 in the morning a parade of boys from a nearby school who were paying tribute to José Martí passed by the front of the collapsed building. The official press has reported the event this morning around 10:00, when the independent press had already featured it on its covers, in some cases since the previous day.
Jesús María is one of the poorest neighborhoods in Havana and is forgotten by the authorities, according to residents.
Just two months ago there was another similar tragedy that involved a minor. It was on November 3, in the Playa municipality, when a building collapsed leaving two fatalities, a 13-year-old girl and her mother. On that occasion there was a survivor, the child’s grandmother.
Also in March there was the death of another person in similar circumstances in the Cerro neighborhood. On that occasion a building collapsed that the neighbors had been requesting be fixed for fifteen years. After there was a fatality, the building was demolished after evicting the 36 people who lived there.
In July 2015, four other people died, also in Old Havana. A building on Havana Street, between Obispo and Obrapía, collapsed around six in the morning when the inhabitants, for the most part, were still asleep. In the incident, a girl of just three years, two young people of 18 and a woman of 60 lost their lives.
All these cases have in common the poor state of the properties and the neglect of the authorities to take measures that could have prevented these deaths.
Some 1.7 million houses, that is 39% of the housing stock in Cuba, are in a poor or bad state, according to the Housing authorities. The situation is particularly serious in Havana, specifically in Centro Habana and Old Havana, municipalities with a high population density.
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