Ten Days Guarding the Manzanares Building To Prevent the Theft of Belongings

A building collapse forced the residents to leave their apartments and they don’t want to lose everything

The collapse of part of an apartment created a domino effect / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 3 July 2024 — San Francisco Street at the corner of Carlos III, in Central Havana, is still closed with a yellow ribbon and an old wicker sofa that prevents the passage of vehicles. Since part of the emblematic Manzanares building collapsed on Sunday, June 23, several affected neighbors have been stationed in the surroundings to avoid the looting of their belongings. This Wednesday, the arrival of some wooden beams, to shore up the entrance, gave them some hope of being able to evacuate some clothes and appliances.

The posts, brought by the state brigade that works on the collection of the interior debris, were placed on the asphalt, very close to the facade at the number 912, a wall full of moisture that for years showed the problems that affected one of the icons of art deco in Havana. With long faces, the victims who have been watching on the street calculated whether those reused wooden beams with signs of deterioration will also be able to support the structure and allow them to access their apartments.

The victims watch on the street, calculating whether the beams, with signs of deterioration, will be able to support the structure

Inside, the panorama is much more serious than can be seen from the outside. The collapse of part of an apartment on an upper floor, which began in the patio area, created a domino effect that dragged down the apartments on the lower floors. The mountain of debris exceeds the height of a man, and the pieces of wall piled up have dimensions that are impossible to carry without heavy machinery. A hill of stones and twisted steel blocks the passage to the rest of the building.

San Francisco Street on the corner with Carlos III, in Centro Habana / 14ymedio

Above the ruins, the sun is reflected through the hole where once there were small interior balconies where the families hung their clothes. “The question is no longer whether we will be able to return to our homes but if we will be able to save some things that remained inside,” an old woman, who claims not to have moved from the place since that fateful Sunday, told 14ymedio. “We began to feel a bit of sand falling from above and we went out. Then we heard the roar, and we lost everything: ceiling, beds, televisions and even the food we had in the refrigerators.”

Now the residents hope to arrive before the thieves, who climb rooftops, go down drain pipes and come at night 

Now, the the residents hope to arrive before the thieves, who climb rooftops, go down drain pipes and come at night, approaching the wallet that was left on the table, the crucifix inherited from a grandmother that hangs on a wall or the electric pot which until two weeks ago a family used to cook rice. It is a race against the clock in which they are the ones who lose: the walls of rubble prevent them from entering what was once their home.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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