UPA (Utanian Press Agency)
Release: May 14, 301 AP.
Building collapse kills thirteen
Thirteen people have lost their lives in the country's first building collapse since
independence, and worst in three years.
It was a little after 12 noon on Mother's Day Sunday, while the first people returned
from church services in the Utanian capital of Utan Krysaror, the apartment building shook
under the vibration from a nearby construction site and simply collapsed, trapping three or
more dozen people under the rubble of the nine storey building.
Emergency workers were quick to the scene, as were dozens of passing people in the
close-knit neighbourhood of Yalles in the city's poorer south-west. Seven people were rescued
from the debris in the first few minutes, from old women badly injured to mildly injured
children, still clutching their teddies and dolls. Then, the dead began to arrive, as
emergency workers and locals worked through tears to pull away the concrete and rubble to free
the living and the dead.
In all, eleven were found dead, two have succumbed to their injuries and twenty-nine
have been rescued, though rescue efforts have continued into the night with as many as
fourteen people still not accounted for.
Locals have been quick to point the finger at the local council administration. The
building was funded under a federal government rejuvenation of the capital city, replacing the
slum-dwellings with modern but cheap apartment buildings. The responsibility for construction
lay with the Utani B'yan state government and the government-parties dominated Waverley City
"I know who to blame", says Ahenya Tokara, a local manufacturing worker, with most
distraught Utani speech. Tokara lost his twelve year old daughter to the building. "The local
council, the bureaucrats. They hastily built this building to succeed in getting extra funding,
but it is we asrunga (lit. little people) who will pay the price!" He wishes he had
stayed in the slums. "At least there the worst disaster is a steel sheet falling on your head."
Preliminary investigations do indeed show that the building was constructed as part of
a Û70 million fund to replace the slums with apartment buildings in late 299. This
nine-storey building was finally occupied by fifty families in May, a mere three months after
construction began. One year later, the vibration from another such construction appears to
have caused the collapse of this one. The federal government has allocated over Û1
billion to housing construction and slum-removal. Û80,000 is allocated per apartment for
the construction, so buildings have rarely exceeded ten storeys, being about fifty or sixty
families, or Û4 to 5 million each. There have been in excess of two hundred such
developments in the poorer areas of Utan Krysaror, particularly under the Waverley and Uraja
councils, all completed within fourteen months, and housing a total of about eighty thousand
people. Unfortunately, this is only about 14% of the slum housing.
It will not be the first time that Council construction codes have come under scrutiny.
Council officials were on site within three hours to commence an investigation, downplaying
the role of the nearby construction in the collapse, instead focusing on whether the residents
hadn't illegally overloaded the weight limits on the building.
Then, last night, President Okarvits despatched Philip Stanson MP, the Health and
Social Services Minister (there is no housing minister in the current cabinet, and the funding
was provided directly out of President Hope's contingency budget), to launch a federal
investigation. Building experts have been flown in from Luka to assess the situation.
It may be weeks before the cause is known. While locals grieve, and sleep in makeshift
homes in neighbouring buildings, politicians and officials will argue and debate, and write
the experience off as a failure rate of 0.5%. To be expected in a city as large as this one.
©UPA, 301 AP.
©Mike Ham, 2001. All rights reserved. No reproduction without, at least, tacit approval. ;-)