Flooded Havana Streets after Irma
Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in Cuba. The capital avoided the worst of the storm but Havana streets flooded and ancient buildings collapsed. They did not collapse because of winds; they collapsed because these crumbling ancient buildings can barely stand on good days.
Old Havana has some stunning, restored colonial buildings and some scary, decrepit old ruins barely standing. Add soaking rains, holes in roofs (or no roofs), pooling water and the building can’t take the additional strain.
Images of Flooded Havana Streets
Collapsed Buildings in Havana
The partially collapsed building below caused the death of two brothers, as reported by Chicago Tribune.
On Animas Street in Central Havana, 51-year-old Walfrido Antonio Valdes Perez was caring for his older brother, Roydis, who worked as a florist until he was diagnosed with HIV. They lived on the second floor of building divided into 11 apartments, many of them split horizontally by crude intermediate floors known as “barbeques.”
After midnight, as wind whipped the neighborhood, a wall collapsed onto the roof of their building, crushing the two brothers to death.
Long before Irma, derrumbes — as Cubans call building collapses — were a common event. Ornate colonial balconies, facades, sometimes even whole buildings, give way after decades of neglect and come crashing down with little to no warning.
Havana residents joke that their’s might be the only city in the world where it’s safer to walk in the middle of the road than on the sidewalks, in case the heavy stone edifices come crashing down.
Of the 10 deaths that Cuba has blamed on Hurricane Irma, at least five were the result of building collapses.
Irma hit Cuba as a monster Category 5 storm and laid waste to hundreds of buildings in the storm’s path. But Cuban officials worry that many more thousands of structures could be weakened and eventually fall.
Havana Streets just Days before Storm
Just days before the storm my son Jeff and I stayed in a casa particular in Havana Centro (Casa Deysi on Calle Blanco). I spent one day just wandering the side streets and taking photos. The driver of a car I was in said he was looking for a “safe” place to park. I assumed he was worried about the car being broken into…no. He was worried about a chunk of balcony falling onto the car. Chunks of balcony fall all the time, but all too often entire buildings fall.
There are lots of buildings like the one below. These are glorious old buildings but the owners have no money for repairs ($25/month is typical pay). They slowly decay and crumble. Often they are half collapsed but still occupied. This process is accelerated when heavy storm rains weaken the structure even more. Sometimes warning signs give occupants time to evacuate, other times not.
The old cars, ancient decayed buildings, resilient people is what makes up Havana and all of Cuba.