Almost Twenty Building Collapses in Havana Cause One Death and Several Injured

In addition to Old Havana and Cerro, the glamorous neighborhoods of El Vedado and Miramar are also affected.

Several neighbors of the municipality of Playa in front of the building that collapsed / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, June 22, 2024 — A group of amazed and curious neighbors crowded this Friday in front of a building, in the shape of a small castle, on 26th Street between 27th and 29th Street in the municipality of Playa, Havana. A crack appeared in the building this morning while a crevice advanced on the facade, and, a bit later, part of its upper floor collapsed.

The recent rains have caused at least 19 partial collapses in the Cuban capital, according to an official source consulted by 14ymedio, who prefers anonymity. There were several injured in those incidents and even one death in the collapse of a wall on Calzada del Cerro, between Patria and Carvajal. The downpours have affected the housing infrastructure, which has lacked maintenance for decades. There has been no government investment in the residential housing stock, and families have been forced to crowd together, in an improvised way, into divided spaces.

Surrounded by an intense police and State Security operation, the perimeter around the collapse seemed, this afternoon, like a war zone. “Fortunately, no one was injured,” clarified an old woman who, close to a stall of agricultural products, had become an improvised source of information for newcomers, given the secrecy of the officials.

“I was in my house and I screamed, I thought it was a wedding, but no, it was a collapse,” said a woman who claims to have been “born and raised” in the neighborhood next to luxurious tourist accommodations, headquarters of foreign companies and foreign embassies with a meticulous garden and a freshly painted facade.

The property that suffered the collapse of part of its structure was built in the first half of the twentieth century and in an architectural style that mixes the functionality of the spaces with certain aesthetic details of grandiloquence much appreciated by the Cuban bourgeoisie that was stripped of its properties after the arrival of Fidel Castro to power.

The images transmitted on social networks show how a crack was enlarged on one side of the facade while the neighbors shouted to summon the residents of the house to leave as soon as possible. The voices expressed their concern for a girl who was among the residents who were trying to evacuate the house.

“Run, run, get the girl out!” a man and a woman are heard screaming, while the top of the structure collapses and leaves a trail of debris in front of the building. When the cloud of dust falls, neighbors of the surrounding buildings are seen leaving their homes in search of shelter. In the face of a collapse, no one feels safe. “They are major forces,” said a resident on the sidewalk right in front. Despite the widespread idea that building collapses only occur in the poorest and oldest neighborhoods of Havana, residents in the vicinity of the castle, damaged by decades of neglect, rains and weather, know that in any area of the capital buildings can fall like dominoes.

As a reminder of the day that was a turning point in the history of the Island, the nearby First of January polyclinic, honoring the official date of the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, located a few meters from the current collapsed building, suffered a collapse a little more than a year ago that forced patients and workers to relocate.

“People believe that because we live in Miramar there are no problems,” says Miriam, an employee of the clinical laboratory of the Polyclinic who lost her job when the building collapsed. “They offered me a place cleaning an apartment in another municipality but I said no, and I no longer work for the State. A fallen king, buried king. I went with the private businesses. Now I work in a cafeteria that only has one floor, and the roof is a light roof, it can’t fall down.”

This afternoon Miriam was among those who waited and watched on the street in front of the beheaded castle. “I live in a nearby room and every time I passed by here I thought about what my life would have been like to have a house like this. Now they are worse off than me; I have a roof over my head, they don’t.”

In less than a week, the collapses have affected several neighborhoods in Havana. This Thursday a balcony collapsed around 11:00 at night over the El Tablazo cafeteria, located on 1st Street, between C and D, in El Vedado. The accident occurred at a time of maximum attendance at the premises and left three injured, all adults.

A partial collapse occurred a few hours later at 425 Monte Street, between Ángeles and Águila, in Old Havana, leaving a young woman injured. The same property had claimed the life of a man three years ago, when one of its side walls fell.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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