14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 24 November 2021 — A public transport bus on route P8 hit the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski in Havana on Wednesday, just in front of Central Park, leaving seven minor injuries. The vehicle, a Chinese brand Yutong bus number 604, collided at 5:00 in the morning with one of the columns and knocked it over completely.
At the stroke of nine in the morning, experts from the Ministry of the Interior were there, trying to determine the causes of the event, and a crowd of passers-by gathered around.
Line P8, which goes from Villa Panamericana to Reparto Eléctrico, in the capital, is highly trafficked, but at that time, the driver was going back to the Calvario terminal. There were only two minor injuries, according to the Granma newspaper, which cites Juan Caballero Martínez, director of the Provincial Transportation Company.
According to “preliminary information” offered by the authorities in the official press, “the cause of the accident was a technical fault in the direction of the vehicle, which caused the driver to lose control of the car.”
In the images taken by this newspaper, the presence of hotel managers and workers wearing helmets and vests is also notable.
“The column is not a support column, it is an adornment column,” an industrial engineer who was part of the group of onlookers who came to the place explains to 14ymedio , right where there are several luxury boutiques, on the ground floor of the hotel. “It is original but it does not have a concrete base with steel, it is simply cement and a water pipe. This column is not supporting the weight of the building.”
However, another source consulted, a civil engineer who has worked since 2013 in the Office of the City Historian on restoration projects, explains that “it is not a decorative column” and points out that “it is structural” and supports the weight of the wall on top of it.
“The fact that it has a pluvial in its interior does not make it decorative. The column is made of stone with mortar, as was typical of the time in which the building was built. Throughout the ground floor there are steel beams of more than 20 cm of peralto embedded between bricks, which are supported from column to column and those are the ones that resist the load of the walls of the upper floors,” says this professional who collaborated in the restoration of the property. The accident aroused all kinds of opinions among the neighbors, who allowed themselves to speculate what could have happened. “I don’t understand how fast it was going to crash like this,” said one of them. “I would not want to be in the shoes of that driver, here you cannot come at 50 kilometers per hour, you have to come at 20 or 30.”
“People had to go out the window because no one came to help them,” said another. “They say here that the driver fell asleep but they still haven’t said anything officially. What a pity, a hotel that not long ago was completely repaired.”
The Manzana Kempinski is a luxurious hotel inaugurated in 2017, the first 5-star Plus, which the residents of the area call “the spaceship.” Located in the old Manzana de Gómez, the accommodation is designed for a type of tourism with high standards, far removed from the reality of the streets.
For this reason, it was the subject of several performances by the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. In one of them, he organized a raffle so that any Cuban could spend a night in the exclusive establishment for 2 CUC the ticket. In another, he photographed himself with a huge mace a few inches from the window of the Giorgio G. VIP store in the gallery.
The artist, in prison for four months, did not cause any damage, unlike this Wednesday a state transport vehicle.
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