DCN ARCHIVES

July 7, 2009

Soil conditions investigated as cause of Shanghai apartment building collapse

SHANGHAI

A nearly finished 13-story apartment building in Shanghai toppled over because of piles of dirt that were excavated to build an underground parking garage, according to initial investigation results, experts say.

City officials vowed to pursue responsibility for the June 27 disaster, which killed one person and cast doubt on the safety of the scores of other projects under way in this city of 20 million. But they admit they were perplexed over how the building could have toppled over almost intact.

“When we arrived on the scene, we were very shook up. In my 46 years of work, I’ve never seen or heard of such a thing,” said Jiang Huancheng, a prominent local engineer and professor at Shanghai’s Tongji University.

The accident was an embarrassment for Shanghai, a showcase city of 20 million in the midst of a construction boom as it prepares to host the 2010 World Expo.

Jiang and other officials told reporters their study showed the suburban building’s design and construction conformed with safety regulations and that more analysis is needed to pinpoint the reason why it fell over almost intact.

There are differing opinions among the experts, but the main conclusion is that the cause is a tall pile of dirt next to the building, they said.

“It’s clear that if there had been no pile of dirt, there would have been no problem,” said Fan Qingguo, an engineer with state-run Shanghai Construction Group.

Other experts explained that dirt excavated for the garage may have compacted the soil, causing it to shift and damage the building’s foundations so that it fell over. Heavy rains and cracks in a flood wall for a nearby river also suggest problems with the soil on the site, they said.

Unusually aggressive reports by the state-controlled media have centred on possible collusion between the property developer, the contractor and others supervising the work. Earlier this week, the government said nine people were “under supervision” in connection with the investigation.

Officials in Shanghai’s Minhang district, the location of the “Lotus Riverside” apartment compound where the building fell, will release results of their investigation into responsibility for the disaster later, said city government spokesman Chen Qiwei.

“We absolutely must give society and the people a clear answer,” said Xie Liming, head of Shanghai’s Work Safety Administration.

DCN News Services

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