The property, located on Amistad and San Miguel Streets has been in danger of collapse for years due to lack of maintenance. A loud noise alerted neighbors to the collapse of the old stairs. Police forces and firefighters were mobilized to help the residents and to evacuate their few belongings.
In the evening hours, the authorities installed an external elevator through which paramedics and health personnel have accessed the building. So far no injuries have been reported, but according to one police officer at midday, “there are elderly among the trapped,” some with blood pressure problems.
“My cousins live there. They have been complaining about the bad condition of the stairs for five months and although the authorities visited the place nothing was fixed,” says a neighbor, indignant at the lack of government action.
“Right here in San Rafael there are several buildings that are falling apart, the government repairs the stores on the ground floors but the apartments on are the upper floors and they fall in and no one cares“
For Manuel, a man who lives on the corner of Neptune and Amistad Street, this morning’s collapse is only “the tip of the iceberg.”
“Right here in San Rafael there are several buildings that are falling apart, the government repairs the stores on the ground floors but the apartments on are the upper floors and they fall in and no one cares,” he added.
According to Rescue and Salvation personnel in the area, the stairs on the third floor collapsed.
“We are waiting for the scaffolding to arrive so we can begin to remove the people who are at risk, bit by bit to empty out the structure,” said one of the rescue workers.
A specialist from the Municipal Housing Department of Central Havana said that they had received complaints from the residents “for years.”
“The building itself is a danger. They wanted to put the people in shelters but we don’t have the capacity in the district to shelter so many people“
“The elevator doesn’t work. The stairs are on the verge of collapse. The building itself is a danger. They wanted to put the people in shelters but we don’t have the capacity in the district to shelter so many people,” she explained.
After the collapse of the stairs the electricity company cut off the electricity and also suspended the gas service. After a “thorough checkup,” the specialists of both institutions decided to re-connect the services.
The Cuban authorities recognize that the housing problem is the first social necessity in Cuba.
According to official figures 33,889 families (132,699 people) need a roof. Most of them have spent decades in “temporary” shelters for victims of building collapses or cyclones.
In 2012, the Census of Population and Housing showed that 60% of the 3.9 million homes on the island are in poor condition.
“There are dozens of people and even pets trapped in that building and everything is as if nothing happened. Will we wait for Havana to collapse to realize the serious problem we have with housing?” Yanelis, a resident of Old Havana, said indignantly, having come to look at the building.