Although Havana’s emblematic Malecon seawall managed to resist the force of Irma, storm surges brought on by the hurricane’s strong winds caused damage to a good part of the concrete wall, penetrating, and deepening holes in the structure with all its power, lifting sidewalks, parts of the road, and above all affecting the drainage system along the waterfront.
After two weeks of intense work, marked by attention to quality and efficiency, construction brigades involved in repairing the Malecón had managed to fix much of the damage and prepare the avenue for reopening on October 1.
A couple of weeks after re-opening, and repair works are still underway.
“We want it to be perfect, in order to avoid a repeat of the damage in the event of another onslaught by nature,” stated Carlos Díaz Hidalgo, provincial director of road infrastructure at Havana’s Transport Office, speaking to Granma International.
These have been days of intense work and upheaval, added Díaz, while constantly receiving calls from points all along the Malecón, where work to protect the seawall from the threat of another natural phenomenon continues.
PREVENTION WORKS CONTINUE
The bridge connecting the main avenue with the Torreón de la Chorrera, a military fortress which formed part of the city’s defensive system during the 17th century, was one of the structures most severely affected by the impact of the waves, which caused damage to the pavement at both ends of the bridge.
In order to determine the true extent of the damage, the Ministry of Construction’s Transport Works Projects Enterprise, decided to dig up the entire stretch of bridge, replacing the old pavement slabs with reinforced steel ones which will enable the structure to withstand the onslaught of the sea in the event of another hurricane.
The work was completed in record time, “barley a week,” according to Díaz Hidalgo, “because we worked in back-to-back shifts, and sometimes, 24 hours straight.” Now the Torreón bridge has been fully repaired, and is completely safe for vehicles.
Nonetheless, in light of assessments by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment and the National Water Resources Institute, the Transport Office “is conducting studies regarding replacement of the current bridge with a newer, stronger one, able to better withstand the force of nature,” he explained.
REPLACING DRAINS AND PAVEMENTS
Storm surges also seriously affected the drainage system along Havana’s northern coastline. The force of the water ruptured 98 storm drains in sidewalks along the northern and southern stretch of Havana’s Malecon.
As a result, 11 areas of sidewalk (measuring approximately one kilometer) and two of pavement were affected, as well as 2,500 square meters of road in the center of the avenue which runs along the seawall (near F street, in the municipality of Plaza de la Revolución).
“We are currently working with the National Water Resources Institute to completely replace all the drain pipes along the waterfront,” stated Carlos Díaz.
Sidewalks in the municipality of Old Havana also suffered severe damage, “a task on which we are still working, as well as repairing damage to the seawall from the Castillo de la Fuerza to the Regla ferry terminal,” he added.
The impact of Hurricane Irma also caused washouts under the base of the Malecón, between the reef area and foundations of the wall, deepening holes produced by years of erosion.
According to Carlos Díaz, in order to repair such damage, the holes were refilled with material more resistant than other types of stone used in construction and then covered with 20 centimeter thick concrete paving slabs.
These works were carried out by the Provincial Road Administration Enterprise; Architectural Works Construction unit number five; the Raúl Roa García Contingent; the Transportation Projects and Construction Technology enterprises, affiliated with the Ministry of Construction.
Although filling the most critical holes will protect Havana’s Malecón, reinforcement work, to strengthen the wall, is scheduled to begin once the cold front season ends.
This will be possible thanks to prior studies conducted by the Naval Projects, Constructions and Services Enterprise and National Rescue Entity, which have helped to identify washouts along the waterfront.
Meanwhile, Carlos Díaz noted that while preliminary repairs to Havana’s Malecón should be completed by the end of October at the latest, given the size and complexity of the work, alternatives continue to be sought, so that the area most visited by Havana residents and one of the most beautiful in the country, is repaired to perfection, as soon as possible.