High School Vandalized to Extract Materials Collapses in Santiago de Cuba

Rubble of what was the Antonio Maceo Grajales Vocational Pre-University Institute of Exact Sciences, in Santiago de Cuba. (Facebook/Iran Suarez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 July 2022 — A man was rescued from the rubble of what was the Antonio Maceo Grajales Vocational Pre-University Institute of Exact Sciences (IPVCE), in Santiago de Cuba, this Wednesday night, after the collapse of a disused and ruined structure, which had been vandalized for years to extract construction materials.

The news was spread on social networks, which reported the rescue of  Girardo Ortega Atencio, who had been among the rubble since four in the afternoon. Journalist Iran Suarez shared on Facebook that the man was given fluids before the rescue.

Before Ortega Atencio was removed from the ruins, another person was rescued from the scene and taken to the Saturnino Lora Provincial Hospital. The identity and state of health of both are unknown.

“Two citizens were illegally removing steel strips from the structure on the fourth level,” Suárez wrote in his report on social networks.

According to engineer Isabel Rodríguez, the collapsed structure was “still young” and “of the Girón type,” a building model used in Cuba during the 1970s, especially for schools in the countryside, pre-university, junior high schools and other official buildings.

The specialist adds that in 2006 a study on seismic vulnerability was carried out and it was determined that this place represented an imminent risk, due to the occurrence of tremors in Santiago de Cuba. “The structure was less than 40 years old at the time,” says Rodríguez.

The collapse was lamented by some residents of the city, who affirmed that for years theft of construction materials, extracted from the old structure, began to occur in the place and that it should have collapsed a long time ago to avoid tragedies. “The neighbors of Quintero and Santamaría have been denouncing this situation for years, the truth is that it is a miracle that more thieves have not died,” wrote Angela María Callis Vicente.

Others commented on the rapid deterioration of the place. “Until a few years ago we used to do the entrance exams for Higher Education there. Seeing it in that state now has impacted me,” said Nuria Napoles also on Facebook.

The Fire Department, the Red Cross, the Integrated System of Medical Emergencies (SIUM), the Cubiza company, authorities of the Communist Party, the Ministry of the Interior and Civil Defense attended the scene.

Seventeen hours after the event, the state press has not noted it in its reports, but it has reported the visit of President Miguel Díaz-Canel, to the province of Santiago where the collapse occurred. According to the State newspaper Granma, the visit “began with a tribute to the founders of the nation, Martí, Céspedes, Mariana and Fidel, and ended at the Antonio Maceo thermoelectric plant.”

The pre-university scholarships, especially the vocational centers, prepared students who would pursue university studies in science and technology specialties, and were one of the jewels in the crown of the Cuban educational system during the years of the Soviet subsidy.

However, over the years, the refusal of families to send their children to these centers, material deterioration and food shortages caused the initiative to capsize. In 2009, Raúl Castro closed the scholarships and schools in the countryside, which accelerated the ruin of vocational pre-university schools.


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