14ymedio, Havana, 13 December 2023 — The thing that residents of the building on the corner of San Lázaro and Perseverancia streets in Central Havana feared most finally happened early Wednesday. Heavy rains that had lashed the Cuban capital for hours led to a partial collapse of the building, which has been in danger of falling down for years.
Fallen building debris partially blocked traffic on San Lázaro Street, one of Havana’s most important thoroughfares. The Municipal Assembly confirmed the news on its Facebook page, adding that no one had been injured and that those affected had been transferred to a shelter.
The building, whose precarious situation 14ymedio had reported on last August, is located in one of the areas most affected by deterioration and lack of maintenance. Proximity to the sea, frequent coastal flooding, salty sea air and strong coastal winds have also contributed to the demise of a significant number of other buildings on San Lázaro Street as well.
Though the entire avenue is under threat, from its starting point at the Malecon to its terminus at the University of Havana’s grand staircase, it is the stretch from Paseo del Prado to Belascoaín Street that is most affected. It was in this precise area that this morning’s partial collapse occurred.
14ymedio confirmed that, by early morning, most of the debris from the collapse had been removed from the street though some fragments remained in piles on the sidewalk. No warning tape surrounded the site but passersby avoided going near the corner and preferred walking almost in the middle of the roadway rather than risk more debris falling on their heads.
— 14ymedio (@14ymedio) December 13, 2023
The Cuban Meteorological Institute reported that “rains were inundating broad swaths of the capital— 14ymedio (@14ymedio) This part of the road is closed to traffic. A few yards away, at 413 San Lázaro between Campanario and Manrique streets, a building suffered a partial collapse, its balconies and cornices falling off. The property, which had been propped up after a previous collapse, is still inhabited by several families despite heavy damage to its structure.
On the same thoroughfare, fragments of a building near Galiano Street also fell off in heavily trafficked area.
At three in the morning, as the storm inundated large areas of the capital, the Cuban Meteorological Institute’s website warned that Wednesday would see “some rain in the western region beginning in early morning.” Interestingly, minutes after this low-key forecast, the same organization posted an alert on social media regarding the serious weather event that was impacting the city.
“Huge mesoscale convective complex affecting Havana’s northern coast, with significant lightning flashes and heavy rain,” read the message, which was illustrated with a map.
The rain began at approximately 11:00 PM, Tuesday. It was accompanied by a strong lighting storm that lasted for at least an hour and a half. From the 14ymedio newsroom could be seen a large area of Cerro plunged into darkness. Blackouts were also reported in Central Havana, Alamar and Luyanó and the gusts of wind are intense.
According to officials, some areas of the capital had as much as 131 mm (1.22 inches) of rain. Heavy precipitation continued falling this morning throughout the city as residents took to the streets with umbrellas and ponchos, avoiding flooded areas and trying to go about their business on a day when forecasts were predicting more rain.
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