Man Dies in Partial Collapse of a Building in Havana

The building had long been showing serious deterioration. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2020 — A man died Saturday morning from the partial collapse of a building in Central Havana, according to neighborhood sources. The victim, whose name this newspaper could not say, was a worker with the Communal Services who was collecting the garbage in San Miguel and Belascoaín when part of the wall fell on him.

According to sources from the Services, the man was cremated that same day around midnight.

The authorities cordoned off and marked the area, which is in clear deterioration, as residents have denounced through multiple negotiations with the administration in which they have detailed, without success, the danger and unhealthiness of the area. On the morning of this Wednesday an operation was visible with men in civilian clothes that prevented the neighbors from approaching the place or taking photos.

“It is necessary that the authorities of Central Havana, Housing and the local Government, assume their responsibilities on time and undertake the urgent actions required by this important corner of this city through which we all pass, since nothing is more important than saving life of the people, not only from Covid,” denounces the source.

For more than forty years, the building, one of the tallest in the area, has been at the center of neighbors’ fears. Deep cracks in its facade, with several balconies that have collapsed and wooden shoring in its portal since the 80s, passers-by avoided passing near it and went down the sidewalk on that section of Belascoaín street.

In 2017, a family who lived on the second floor of the building fell to the ground after the floor collapsed under their feet, an incident that led several families to leave the place. For decades, garbage and debris have been accumulating on the basement of the building, between the columns, which community workers then collect with heavy machinery.

Despite being officially uninhabited, the property is frequently occupied by homeless families, especially migrants from the eastern provinces of the Island who, finding themselves without legal papers in Havana, have many difficulties in renting a home. Despite the degree of deterioration of the building, the garbage containers on that block are located just below its main facade.

This is the second serious incident in the capital this year since, in late January, three girls died as a result of the collapse of a balcony in Old Havana. The children, who were about 11 years old and were in elementary school, had left the school and were passing by when the structure collapsed, killing one of the victims on the spot, while the other two lost their lives in the hospital.

Neighbors climb the battered staircase from the beginning of the last century and propped up in various areas. (14ymedio)

Probably due to the ages of the deceased, the population reacted with special pain to this event, which was first reported by the independent media and reported by the official press three days later. At that time, many publications took stock of the unfortunate situation in which a large number of buildings are located in the capital, but no action has been taken in this regard and the arrival of the pandemic has taken the limit of the situation they are going through into the background. infrastructures on the Island.

Recently, a similar tragedy occurred involving a minor. It was on November 3, in the Playa municipality, when a building collapsed, leaving two fatalities, a 13-year-old girl and her mother. On that occasion there was a survivor, the minor’s grandmother

Also in March, another person died in similar circumstances in the Cerro neighborhood. On that occasion, a building that collapsed was one that neighbors had been requesting to be fixed for fifteen years. After there was a fatality, the building was demolished and the 36 people who lived in it were evicted.

Four other people died in July 2015, also in Old Havana. A building on Havana Street, between Obispo and Obrapía, collapsed around six in the morning when the inhabitants, for the most part, were still asleep. In the incident, a girl of just three years old, two young men of 18 and a woman of 60 died.

All these cases have in common the poor condition of the buildings and the negligence of the authorities to take measures that could have prevented these deaths.

Some 1.7 million houses, that is to say 39% of the housing fund in Cuba, is in a fair or poor state, according to the Housing authorities. The situation is particularly serious in Havana.

 See: Havana is Collapsing – A Photo Essay: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4


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