A Woman Injured in a Building Collapse on the Lethal Stretch of a Street in Havana

The property seems abandoned, but more than a dozen families live inside.

Number 425 of Monte Street, between Ángeles and Águila, in Old Havana, this Wednesday / 14ymedio]

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 19 June 2024 — At noon this Wednesday, a yellow tape blocked the passage to the entry of the building at 425 Monte Street, between Ángeles and Águila, in Old Havana, where last night a partial collapse left a young woman injured. The adjacent property at number 423 had claimed the life of a man three years ago, when one of its side walls collapsed.

“We can’t even sleep here, all of us who live on this piece of street are in danger,” a neighbor who went to the place to get information about the injured woman tells 14ymedio. “We don’t know anything; we have called the Emergency Hospital [General Freyre Andrade], but they say that they don’t treat patients in Old Havana and they don’t have a trauma ward either.”

This newspaper’s attempts to know the state of the young woman, through the information numbers of the Calixto García Clinical Surgical Hospital, were also unsuccessful. A video of the moment she was evacuated shows the woman passed out and being put into a police patrol in the absence of an ambulance for her transfer. This Wednesday, among the neighbors, her situation was still a question mark.

“It’s been raining for many days and tragedy could be smelled in the air”

With the door closed, the facade in a calamitous state and the roof of the entrance propped up with thick wooden beams, the building where the collapse occurred seems abandoned, but inside there are still more than a dozen families crammed into small apartments. For years, the residents have feared that a wall or one of the middle floors will collapse. This Tuesday, part of the nightmare became a reality.

“It’s been raining for many days and tragedy could be smelled in the air,” said an old man who lives on Ángeles Street. In December 2021, the residents in the surrounding area heard a roar and, when they looked out of their doors, they saw that the side wall of the first floor of number 423, which is on the corner, had fallen, filling the entire passage with debris. Under those bricks, the body of a passer-by who lost his life was recovered.

The section of Monte Street where both affected properties are located is a very busy area and one of the most important commercial routes in the Cuban capital. Despite the “Don’t Pass -PNR*” signage that surrounds the building where the most recent collapse happened and the images of the accident that have been circulating for hours on social networks, this afternoon vehicle traffic and pedestrian crossing on the avenue were maintained.

The balcony of the collapsed building is full of vegetation that has grown between the cracks

Above the heads of passersby, the balcony of the collapsed building is full of vegetation that has grown between the cracks and through the bars. The trunks of bushes and weeds extend throughout the terrace. On the facade of the ground floor a colorful sign announces “Cell phone repair,” and there is often a line of people waiting to access the service.

After the previous collapse, less than three years ago, the corner building, 423, has been left with only a flat floor where there is currently a small sale that exhibits its goods on a table at the door. Moisture stains rise on the walls and columns of all the buildings on the block, and in the air the most persistent smell is that of sewer water.

The neighbors of the area fear that the deterioration is now so advanced that repair is not an option for some properties, most of them from the first half of the twentieth century but showing decades of neglect, lack of resources to carry out restoration and the overpopulation of families of up to three generations, who have had to divide the space with improvised walls and lofts that have added weight to the structures. [A set of photos of the site is here.]

In December 2021, 14ymedio interviewed several neighbors of nearby buildings and talked to some of the inhabitants of numbers 425, 427 and 429 of Monte Street. Aramirta Castan then warned that the danger continued: “Here in my dining room pieces of the roof are falling, everything is shaking, it seems that we are in an earthquake,” complained the woman, then 77 years old. “That door out there is in the air, everything is falling.”

*Partido Nacional Revolucionario

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.