CBC video footage shows onlookers watching Lima’s historic Casona El Buque collapse.
After sustaining structural damage during an overnight fire, a historic building housing up to 17 families in Lima’s old neighborhood of Barrios Altos collapsed into the street on November 4th. The mansion, known as Casona El Buque, was built in 1753, designated a national monument in 1988, and later became part of the Historic Centre of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in 1991.
A CBC news video shows the building’s roof dramatically caving in, bringing down a significant portion of the building’s facade onto the street, and releasing dust and debris into the air. According to some reports, the weight and damage from the water used to control the flames the previous night may have destabilized what was already a precarious structure.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, El Buque (“The Ship”) served as the residence of many of the city’s leading political figures and hosted a number of illustrious guests, including Simón Bolívar. In 2010, after years of neglect left the colonial home in a state of decay and open to squatters, El Buque became the focus of a dispute between Peru’s National Institute of Civil Defense, which declared the building unsafe and suggested it be demolished, and the National Institute of Culture, which stressed El Buque’s historical importance.
El Buque is emblematic of the poor governance plaguing Lima’s historic centre, where an estimated 83 percent of the monuments are at risk of collapse, according to a 2011 report. More than a quarter of Peru’s population lives in hazardous areas, including historic buildings like El Buque, which the National Institute of Culture says it can’t preserve without additional resources.
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El Buque prior to its collapse. Photo: Maximo Zuniga
El Buque on November 6. Photo: trust.org