“I didn’t even have time to take my wallet, so I was left with nothing”

The collapse of a building on Lucena and San Rafael streets, in Centro Habana, leaves several families homeless. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 October 2020 — A deafening screech, like metal bending, was the signal received by the residents of a three-story building on Lucena Street, between San Miguel and San Rafael, in Centro Habana, before their home collapsed, leaving them without nothing.

“It was around 3:30 in the morning. A neighbor who was watching television at that time began to warn everyone, alerted by the noise of the building that was giving way and gradually cracking, which allowed everyone to get out,” a resident told this newspaper.

“The dog began to bark very excitedly and no one knew what was happening to him,” says another resident of the property who, after seeing his pet’s nervous reaction, decided to go outside carrying him. “I didn’t even have time to pick up my wallet, so I was left with nothing.”

Neighbors living near the building also told 14ymedio that they felt a deafening noise “like metal bending” that allowed people to run and wake up other residents. “When they came out, at that very moment, it fell.”

According to a neighbor who still has not gotten over the scare, the rear part of the property and the entire interior collapsed: “The doors of a store on the ground floor came off and were left outside.”

At a corner near the collapse, in front of the community medical office, the inhabitants who escaped the collapse crowd together. “I suppose they are taking their blood pressure,” commented someone who was passing by.

A strong operation around the site of the collapse extended for several blocks. (14ymedio)

The long faces reflect the feeling of the group that they have lost everything and don’t even know where they will sleep at night. A crying man sitting on the sidewalk is part of the sad scene of those who, in the best of cases, will have to go to one of the overcrowded shelters in the city, where the average waiting time to move into a house exceeds ten years.

Others will go to the home to a relative while they finish processing the news that they no longer have a home of their own. Some neighbors take the opportunity to try to recover a brick that has fallen on the street after the collapse, and the former residents ask the police to prevent anyone from entering so that they do not steal their belongings that might have been saved after the collapse.

In the blocks the lead into the site, the securing of the site with yellow tape and the deployment of about twenty agents to prevent access are striking.

The area, which had only just begun to pick up its pace after the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, has several highly affluent state businesses such as bakeries, a pizzeria and other stores. This Wednesday some of them have remained closed as they are in the area cordoned off by the police.

The collapse of this Wednesday is located a few yards from the building on the corner of Belascoaín and San Miguel where last July a worker from the Communales company died when part of a wall fell on him while he was sweeping the street. “This area is in very bad condition, buildings have not been rehabilitated here for a long time,” says a resident.

Sites of building collapses in Havana in 2020 so far.

Centro Habana, lacking the colonial beauty of Old Havana or the modern buildings of El Vedado, has for decades been a municipality characterized by the high presence of tenements, infrastructure problems, overcrowding and a high population density. Many of its buildings are from the early 20th century and have not received repairs for more than fifty years, not even paint on their facades.

At the end of September, 14ymedio also reported the collapse of a multifamily building on Amargura Street, between Aguacate and Compostela, in Old Havana, in which a 74-year-old woman lost her life.


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