A Building Collapse in Old Havana Leaves One Dead

Neighbors warned of the collapse, which was reported by the official press this Thursday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 September 2020 — A woman died on Wednesday night in the collapse of a multi-family building in Old Havana, which occurred around 7:00 pm on Cuba Street, between Luz and Acosta.

“Rosa died, she was trapped under the rubble,” said Lucero, a neighbor on the same block, speaking to 14ymedio earlier this Thursday. He added that the victim was over 60 years old and had already died when the rescue work ended, around three in the morning.

This newspaper was able to verify the death of the woman, Rosa María Soltis Cuella, through a call to La Nacional funeral home, located in Calzada de Infanta and Benjumeda, where her funeral services are being held.

The collapse was reported by some residents on social networks  on Wednesday night and later confirmed in the official press.

A neighbor known as ‘the musician’ has lost almost everything, except for his mattress. (14ymedio)

“Members of the Command 1 Rescue and Salvage are currently working to rescue a citizen who remains trapped in the rubble,” said a note in the newspaper Tribuna de La Habana within a few hours of the event.

This morning, there was still a strong police presence cordoning off the area, along with some State Security agents.

The deceased had not legalized her situation in the property, although “she had been processing it for some time without an answer.”

Neighbors report that the building was in very poor condition and that it got worse after the rain in recent days. There were 36 families living in the building, but 24 of them had already been relocated, so at the time of the event, there were 12 families left. Four apartments were affected by the collapse.

One of the residents, known as “El Musico,” who lived on the floor above the victim, says that “he was hanging up a towel when the building collapsed.” Now, he sees it possible that the neighbors will be given a place in a shelter, although he anticipates that he will have to face the bureaucratic ‘scramble.’ “Housing will keep a roof over my head, but I will have to do all kinds of procedures to get it,” he says.

“The Musician lost everything, he could only save his mattress and other nonsense. He plays in an orchestra, he is a trumpet player at carnivals,” says another neighbor.

From the early hours of the morning, officials from the National Housing Institute visited the building to collect testimony from the neighbors and make a census of those affected.

Habitability problems have haunted the country for decades, and successive programs launched by the Government have not resolved these increasingly frequent accidents. In the case of the capital, the problem is particularly serious, as the high population density complicates the situation.

In July two people died in different events. The first took place on the 18th in Centro Habana, when a Communal Services worker who was working at the foot of a building in San Miguel and Belascoaín was crushed when the wall of the building fell on him. The building had been in ruins for years and had already been the site of other accidents.

The rescue lasted until approximately three in the morning. (14ymedio)

Just six days later, María Magdalena Olivares Miller died when she was crushed in the collapse of a property located on Monte 1061 Street, between Fernandina and Romay, in Cerro.

The most dramatic collapse in Havana occurred just at the beginning of the year, when a balcony collapsed on three girls between 9 and 11 years old. The children were returning from school when the structure fell on them, killing one on the spot, while the other two lost their lives in the hospital.

On November 3, a building located in the municipality of Playa collapsed, causing two fatalities, a 13-year-old girl and her mother. The girl’s grandmother was seriously injured but survived.

In Cerro, in March 2019, another person died in similar circumstances. A building, whose neighbors had requested rehabilitation for 15 long years, collapsed causing a fatality. Only after the tragedy the demolition proceeded, after the 36 people who lived there were evicted.

In July 2015 four other people died, also in Old Havana. A building on Habana Street, between Obispo and Obrapía, collapsed around six in the morning when the inhabitants, for the most part, were still sleeping. A three-year-old girl, two 18-year-olds and a 60-year-old woman lost their lives in the accident.


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