Balcony Collapse in San Rafael Street Alarms Residents of Central Havana

The collapse happened in front of the Juan Vitalio Acuña elementary school. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 23 August 2021 — The collapse of two balconies this Sunday in the building located at number 403 A, on the corner of Manrique and San Rafael, in the municipality of Centro Habana, worries residents already concerned. The collapse did not cause casualties because it happened after nine at night, right in front of the Juan Vitalio Acuña elementary school.

“The third-floor balcony collapsed and fell on top of an apartment on the second floor and also knocked down part of the balcony of that house,” a local resident told 14ymedio, while continuing to look suspiciously at the concrete fragments that remain on the street on Monday.

The resident says that many people pass through the area and thanks to the fact that the collapse occurred late at night “there was no tragedy.” Authorities in Havana have decreed a curfew between 9 pm and 5 am for months, in response to the covid-19 pandemic, which keeps people and vehicles off the street during that time.

Calle San Rafael is one of the busiest roads in the municipality as it connects avenues such as Belascoaín, Galiano and Prado, as well as having a strong presence of shops, private food venues and even a very popular agricultural market. But, as it is not a tourist artery, it has hardly benefited from any repairs, although most of its homes are from the first half of the last century.

The balconies were in the part of the building that faces Calle San Rafael. (14ymedio)

It was precisely the collapse in January 2020 that caused the tragic deaths of three girls in the neighboring municipality of Old Havana, between Vives and Revillagigedo streets, in the Jesús María neighborhood. The structure, deteriorated by the years and the lack of maintenance, collapsed around four-thirty in the afternoon, when the children were on the sidewalk rehearsing for the events to celebrate the birth of José Martí.

Centro Habana is one of the most populated municipalities in the capital and is an area that, for decades, has been characterized by the high presence of tenements, mostly with infrastructure problems and overcrowding. Many of its buildings were built at the beginning of the 20th century and have not received repairs beyond a facade painting for more than fifty years.

The buildings near the Malecón suffer especially from the effects of the saltpeter from the ocean and none of the various government programs have solved the problem of the frequent collapse.


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