14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 24 November 2021 — A fire of medium proportions affected the garage of a five-story multi-family building located on Tulipán and Central streets, near Rancho Boyeros avenue in Havana, on Wednesday afternoon. The accident was due to a ‘motorina‘ — an electric motorbike — that was parked on the premises, according to several residents of the property speaking to 14ymedio.
The smoke caused at least four residents to be transferred by ambulance to receive oxygen. As this newspaper verified at the scene, an elderly woman and two children were able to walk out of the building on their own, although with coughing and breathing problems. In addition, another woman needed to be carried.
Just before, around 5:20 p.m., residents in the area began to smell a strong odor of burning plastic. “We went out to the balcony and the whole street was pure smoke,” a resident in the same block told this newspaper. “There was tremendous shouting because nobody knew exactly where so much smoke was coming from,” she added.
A few minutes later the smoke could be seen in several of the tall buildings that characterize the area and a strong smell of burned plastic spread throughout the neighborhood where several ministries such as Transport and Agriculture are located, in addition to other official entities.”
It was a motorina that they had in the garage, it seems that it spontaneously burst into flames when people realized it there was already smoke inside the house,” explains another neighbor. “Now they are cordoning off the area and evacuating everyone in the building.”
Electric motorbikes catching fire is becoming more frequent in Cuba. Last September, a fire in a house in the city of Matanzas caused the death of a 19-year-old girl and wounded two, a 13-year-old boy and a 20-year-old boy.
Only a few months earlier, in May, another motorina fire caused the death of three members of the same family in the city of Sancti Spiritus, including a seven-year-old boy. The vehicle, which was plugged in to charge the lithium battery, exploded inside the house. The accident became the most serious of its kind in Cuba. In 2019, 208 fires of electric motorcycles with lithium batteries were recorded, 164 of them serious and 44 minor.
With the transportation crisis, electric motorcycles with lithium batteries have become increasingly popular on the island, a phenomenon that has increased since the product is also available for purchase in the state stores that only accept freely convertible currency.
In the last year, 10,000 electric units of 21 different models have been marketed, including motorcycles, bicycles, scooters and tricycles.
Official investigations revealed that among the main causes of the fires are reckless acts when charging electric motorcycles, for example leaving the lithium battery charger connected without the corresponding control, using inappropriate chargers, not cooling the motorcycle before charging it, replacing original parts of the electric motorcycle or the illegal manufacture of batteries.
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