Miami, FL, April 22, 2013 – U.S. government broadcasts to Cuba continued Monday after a trashcan fire forced the temporary evacuation of the headquarters of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami Sunday afternoon.
The building housing Radio and Television Martí and the Martinoticias.com website, on NW 77th Avenue in Miami, sustained damage due to an accidental fire caused by a lighted cigarette left in a container in a designated smoking area outside the building. Heat from the blaze caused windows to break in the Martí newsroom. Smoke entered the building and automatically set off building sprinklers. No one was injured.
“We are grateful to the firefighters and other officials who responded so quickly to the situation,” said Carlos García Pérez, Director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB). ”We are also grateful to our dedicated team of federal employees and contractors, who ensured that programming continued and who today are working in cramped conditions on broadcasts for Cuba while the damage is being repaired.”
In Miami, representatives of the OCB and the General Services Administration are working with the building’s landlord to mitigate the fire damage and verify air quality safety. They say it could be a week or more before employees can return to the central newsroom, which sustained most of the damage.
The disruption comes at a busy time for Martí journalists. They are mobilizing for live coverage Tuesday morning from Brussels of the long-delayed presentation of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to “The Ladies in White,” an opposition movement in Cuba consisting of wives and other female supporters of jailed dissidents. The Prize was awarded in 2005, but the Cuban government denied the women the right to receive the award. Representatives of the group are traveling to Brussels this week, the first time many have been allowed outside of Cuba.
“In the absence of a free press in Cuba, Radio and TV Martí and martinoticias.com report on stories Cuban media does not cover,” García Pérez said. “The Martis’ coverage of issues relevant to the daily lives of Cubans, including human rights, will continue.”
Radio Martí is available throughout much of Cuba on 1180 AM and Radio Caracol on 1260 AM. TV Martí is available in Cuba on Channels 13 and 20 as well as Mega TV through the Direct TV satellite. Aside from the usual Internet access, Martinoticias is available through proxy sites and via file sharing on the island.