Residents of a Havana Building in Ruins Await Official Response

Yuderkis Pupo García has been trying to shore up the roof of her building for more than a month, when the hurricane made a bad building worse. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 March 2019 — Yuderkis Pupo Garcia still spends her days between the shock of the first impact of the tornado and the anguish that causes the desire to return to normal.

A resident of the building at 560 Juan Alonso street, between Infanzón and Juan Abreu, as of today she’s watched five commissions from different parts of the government parade by her house, but when she and the other affected people ask about their situation the officials cross their arms and ask for patience and calm.

The building they have inhabited for more than thirty years is falling apart and is in danger of collapse. According to the specialists who have visited the property during the last month, the greatest risk is from the large number of leaks in ceilings and walls and in the columns, which are very cracked.

The situation was ongoing, but reached a critical point after the scourge of strong winds from the tornado on January 27 in the capital. A technical opinion from 2015 found that this building, built in 1926, was in “poor condition” and recommended that the Pupo García family be moved into “provisional shelter” but the lack of space in such facilities has prevented them from moving.

The residents fear the building can collapse on them at any time. (14ymedio)

“Now the building is worse. The passing of the tornado ended up removing everything, the people from the Housing Office who came the other day said that there is no way to fix this and it needs to be demolished to the foundations, but they haven’t told us if they’re going to take us to a shelter or to other housing.  No one knows anything, meanwhile we’re in danger,” the woman denounces to 14ymedio. She is the mother of two children, one a minor and the other with serious health problems.

The residents open the doors of their apartments to anyone who comes with an interest in helping and show them the deterioration of walls, columns and architraves. The cracks, mostly vertical, are also visible on the outside of the building.

“It’s a lack of respect, first two architects who took note and left, within five days three architects arrived who also took note and left, after which two people arrived saying they were from demolition and warned that the building had to be demolished urgently before a misfortune happened, and they left and we never heard from them again,” she explains.

Pupo Garcia has no peace thinking about the possibility that the roof might fall in on any night while her family sleeps, and she has placed some beams to avoid the collapse but she knows that if they crumble all her effort will have been in vain.

After the parade of the various committees came delegate and deputy Alberto Osorio, a person they reproach for the lack of concern he has shown by the situation of their community of neighbors. According to Pupo García, the leader has visited the place and has been aware for years of the seriousness and danger that touches the lives of all people living in the building but “has never moved a finger” to expedite a solution.

The building, which currently houses about 50 people, has 21 rooms, each eighteen feet long by eleven and a half wide. The residents have complained to the Provincial Government, the Housing Physical Planning Office and the People’s Power, but in no case have they obtained a response that guarantees their safety.

In the absence of a solution, Pupo García decided to write to Miguel Díaz-Canel through the Twitter account of her eldest daughter.

“We need your help and support, we know the situation that many people are in right now, but if you do not urgently extend your hand we will be the next to be dead or the next injured,” she wrote in the social network. Her biggest concern is that the days of heavy rains are approaching and then hurricane season. “That’s why we ask him, we beg him and we implore him to help us get out of here with our families and our children alive, please, we ask, Mr. President,” she added without getting an answer.

The children play in the street among the construction materials, but the repairs do not reach everyone. (14ymedio)

Every time it is announced that a hurricane is coming, the residents of number 560 are housed in the Abel Santamaría elementary school to avoid injuries due to possible collapses, but they believe that now they are in danger every minute of the day and night.

Yuderkis Pupo García is a woman who does not give up, this week she plans to go to the Population Services Offices of the State Council to leave her complaint in writing. “We are tired of the bureaucracy and the usual run-around,” she says. She also argues that most of the neighbors “are sick people” who receive retirement or social welfare assistance and do not have the resources to look for another alternative.

Around the corner from the 560 building, along Juan Abreu Street, many are rebuilding their houses from the foundations up or repairing what was left of them. In each corner, hills of sand and mountains of blocks are still piled among the playing children and mounds of debris, while the lives of some fifty people are at risk, including children, the elderly and adults.


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