A Building Collapse Surprises Rescuers a Few Blocks from Havana’s Capitol Building and the Large Hotels

View of the rubble of the collapsed building in Lamparilla, in Old Havana, this Wednesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 October 2023 — A multi-family building collapsed this morning in Old Havana, where there were residents and members of the Rescue and Rescue team of the Cuban Fire Department. Official sources have confirmed, so far, the deaths of two rescuers, Yoandra Suárez López, 40, and Luis Alejandro Llerena Martínez, 23, and the discovery of another lifeless body under the rubble.

In the morning hours, Civil Defense indicated that they were looking for the body of Ramón Páez Frometa, 79. “They pulled the lifeless body of a person from under the rubble. It is presumed to be that of Ramón Páez Frómeta, who was in the place at the time of the incident and was reported missing,” official journalist Lázaro Manuel Alonso published on Facebook.

Luis Carlos Guzmán Matos, head of the Cuban Fire Department, told the official press that “the work inside the building is very complex, since it is completely collapsed.”

Yoandra Suárez López and Alejandro Llerena, the deceased rescuers identified so far. (Collage)
Yoandra Suárez López and Alejandro Llerena, the deceased rescuers identified so far. (Collage)

This newspaper spoke with several neighbors, who assume that those are trapped are dead, “due to the amount of debris that fell on them.” Two slightly injured people have been transferred to the Calixto García hospital, Alberto Arias Lores, age 97, a resident of apartment 9 of 1368 Lamparilla, and Eduardo González Rodríguez, age 31, a resident of apartment 15 in the building at 1366 Lamparilla.

The collapse occurred in two phases, the first around 11 pm on Tuesday, when there was a partial collapse, which firefighters attended. Once they were inside the building, at 362 Lamparilla Street, between Villegas and Aguacate, a large part of the structure collapsed, late at night.

The entire area is closed to traffic two blocks around the scene of the accident, as witnessed by this newspaper on Wednesday morning. Numerous trucks are parked in the surroundings to collect debris, and the sirens of the emergency services are still sounding.

To pass, the police ask residents for their identification card. “Everything is closed like never before,” observed an elderly woman, pointing out the number of uniformed and State Security agents deployed around the place. “Even the Special Branch is here.”

Despite the strong surveillance, however, the neighbors did not suppress their complaints. “There always have to be dead people for the leaders to appear, shameless as they are,” said a woman to her companion next to one of the protective tapes that prevented passage. They both remembered the case of another friend, who “her house fell and only after that, they gave her a place to live in Marianao.”

The police perimeter around the collapse extends several blocks and includes the busy Plaza del Cristo, located in front of the Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje parish. The area, a commercial epicenter with a high population density, is also frequently traveled by tourists who use streets such as Teniente Rey and Amargura to travel between the Plaza Vieja and the areas around the Capitol Building in the center of Havana.

The Provincial Health Directorate of Havana reported that in addition to Calixto García, two other hospitals received injured people. (14ymedio)

This morning, however, all the traffic has been interrupted by the tapes with “Do not pass PNR” [Naional Revolutionary Police] that extend around the area of the collapse. The Plaza del Cristo has become a congregation center for police, rescuers and also vehicles belonging to the Fire Department. The heavy rain that began to fall at midday is making work difficult.

The provincial government of Havana confirmed early in the morning that there are several people trapped, both civilians and rescuers. It is not known how many people were inside at the time of the event, but according to Alexis Acosta Silva, mayor of Old Havana, 54 people from 13 families resided in the building.

The official explained that a good part of the affected families have gone to the homes of relatives and friends, while others were evacuated to the Jorge Arturo Vilaboy Viñas Secondary School, where today’s classes will run normally despite the circumstances. For their part, the students of René Fraga, located next to the site of the accident, will be relocated to other educational centers.

Personnel from the Ministry of Construction are working together with the forces of the Ministry of the Interior to remove the debris and continue the effort. “Both the Rescue and Rescue units, as well as the canine technique, are ready to continue the work, always with the necessary safety,” added the fire chief.

So far, work is only being done on the affected building and the residents of the neighboring properties have not been evacuated.

The incident occurred in the same municipality where almost a year ago – on Refugio Street – a similar building collapsed, leaving several people trapped, with no injuries to report.

The situation of the homes in what is also one of the most tourist-focused municipalities in the Cuban capital makes incidents of this type frequent. One of the most remembered, the one that caused the death of three girls between 11 and 13 years old in the Jesús María neighborhood, when a balcony fell on them while they were playing in the street.


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