14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 22 April 2021
At least one man was seriously injured on Thursday when two buildings completely collapsed and part of a third also fell on Havana’s Malecón. The buildings were semi-dilapidated, fenced with metal, uninhabited, and at the time of the collapse they were being demolished by construction workers.
The two buildings and the fragment of a third that collapsed are located on what is officially called Maceo Avenue between Águila and Crespo streets, very close to the Prado de La Habana. According to a nearby resident, “the workers demolishing them were using a jackhammer when what was left of the buildings fell down.”
“At least one man was seriously injured, because he was passing by on the sidewalk and the metal fence gave way with the pieces that fell. Half of his body was buried under the rubble and other people also suffered minor injuries,” detailed the neighbor, who also added: “It was a danger even for the cars passing on the street.”
“There wasn’t any good signage telling people not to pass by,” a neighbor told this newspaper, noting that “not only were the buildings collapsing, but there were electrical cables on the sidewalk and every time I passed by I had to step off the sidewalk, but this a street with fast-moving traffic and every time you step off the sidewalk your life is at stake.”
“Everything around here is grim, the day will come when we will see the entire Malecon collapse,” laments another neighbor. “They don’t fix things here, they just paint them when an important visitor is coming, or tear them down to build hotels,” he complained. “This demolition work should not have been done without closing the block.”
“The east building has just collapsed right now, right here in front of me,” a passerby reported through a live broadcast on the social network Facebook, and who also recorded the moment when the injured man was taken from the place in a vehicle heading to a hospital. “It fell on a man,” he explained in the video.
The images show a group of people trying to rescue the injured man from under the fragments of the building. “The debris reached to the other side of the street,” explained the internet user in a transmission of slightly longer than a minute.
The collapsed building is located in the municipality of Centro Habana, one of the most populated in the capital and which for decades has been an area characterized by the high presence of tenements, with infrastructure problems and overcrowding. Many of the buildings are from the early twentieth century and have not received repairs for more than fifty years, not even painting on their facades.
In the vicinity of the Malecon, the buildings have suffered especially the effects of the salt air which, together with the lack of maintenance, have turned the housing stock in the area into one of the most damaged in the Cuban capital. The successive programs launched by the Government have not resolved the increasingly frequent collapses.
It has been three years since the Government acknowledged a deficit of almost one million homes on the island, a very serious situation that it aspired to alleviate in a period of ten years. However, the shortage of materials due to a persistent crisis exacerbates a problem that continues to leave millions of people in suspense, not knowing when they might see their roof coming down.
According to a report from the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights last October, almost half of the homes in the country need repair, and 11% of families live in places at risk of collapse.