A Man ‘Under the Concrete Slabs’ of Santiago de Cuba High School is Still Trapped

The collapse occurred in the old building of the Antonio Maceo Grajales high school in Santiago de Cuba. (Aris Batalla)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 August 2022 — One person was injured during the collapse that occurred this Wednesday in the old building of the Antonio Maceo Grajales Vocational Pre-University Institute of Exact Sciences (IPVCE), in Santiago de Cuba

The rescue team also tried to locate another individual, allegedly trapped between several cement slabs after the collapse of the structure. This was reported on Facebook by Aris Arias Batalla, provincial head of Operations and Relief of the Red Cross branch in Santiago de Cuba.

“A whole multidisciplinary team worked tirelessly to remove the body that is under the concrete slabs,” wrote Arias Batalla. He added that the injured person was transferred to the Juan Bruno Zayas Clinical Surgical Hospital and, as of last night, he was “out of danger.”

The Cuban Red Cross, the Civil Defense and workers of the Mariel project and the Ministry of Construction are operating at the scene of the accident. In addition, they support the labor of workers at the cement factory, paramedics of the Integrated Medical Emergency System, brigade members and experts in rescue techniques.

During the early hours of Thursday, work was being done to clean up the debris, and they had to break up the concrete slabs with electric hammers, according to Arias Batal, a rescue worker. At 8:00 in the morning, the rescuers began the search in a second sector after not finding any bodies in the first.

Since the event became known, the people of Santiago have demanded from the authorities the immediate demolition of the facilities of the former IPVCE, which was being used as a source to extract steel from. These actions have already caused accidents, such as the one that occurred on July 6 when another collapse left two people in the rubble.

The injured were illegally removing the steel from the fourth floor of the structure, which collapsed on Wednesday.

“How long will people be so irresponsible and risk death trying to remove steel from the floors and columns?” asked Carlos Caballero Reyes on Facebook, after the latest collapse.

“Since the previous injuries, not even two months ago, those ruins should have disappeared. People aren’t aware,” Idamis Geilis said in the comments.

The boarding schools, especially in the vocational centers, prepared students to pursue university studies in science and technology and were one of the “crown jewels” of the Cuban education system during the years of the Soviet subsidy.

In 2006, a study on seismic vulnerability was carried out, and it was determined that the school represented an imminent risk, due to the occurrence of earthquakes in Santiago de Cuba.

However, over the years, the refusal of families to send their children to these centers, the material deterioration and the shortage of food caused the initiative to capsize. In 2009, Raúl Castro closed the boarding schools in the countryside, which accelerated the ruin of the vocational high schools.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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