UAE : Basement May Hold Secret of Building’s Collapse


Basement may hold secret of building’s destruction

DUBAI - AUG 18: Experts and technical teams from the municipality, police and civil defence sifted through the debris of a partially collapsed building yesterday as they searched for clues to what made it come down.

A portion of the six-storey commercial complex collapsed on Sunday afternoon, wrecking at least 12 cars and property worth millions of dirhams.

The gradual collapse gave time for the 21 workers to escape the premises unhurt.

Preliminary investigation results suggest that one portion of the building had sunk or settled, said Essa al Maidour, the municipality’s assistant director general for general projects affairs.

“Soil and ground water movement is also a technical possibility,” he said.

“I am not saying that this has happened, but we have to consider and rule out all possibilities.”

The municipality’s technical team is also reviewing the building’s plans, he said.

Yesterday, roads and streets leading to the building were cleared and traffic was back to normal. The site was barricaded as inspectors searched through tonnes of metal and concrete.

Mr al Maidour said the building had three layers of basement, which the technical team is trying to reach.

“We believe there may have been some problem in the basement which caused the collapse,” he said.

“Something happened in the basement area. The teams are now going down and digging deep into the debris to find out.”

Describing the possibilities of the collapse he said: “There are more than one scenario: it could be a geo-technical problem, problem with site support or the concrete slabs on the basement and ground levels.”

Aju Sharfuddin, corporate health and safety manager at Civil Engineering and Contracting Co (Civilco) and the president of the UAE chapter of the World Safety Organisation, described the incident as “unfortunate”.

He said it could have been caused by a soil cavity in the foundation.

The building had neared completion and was expected to be open for business next week. A substantial section still remains, and Mr al Maidour said that if it was found to be affected and dangerous, it would be brought down.

“We do not want any such incident again. If the remaining portion is affected, it has to come down. Once we complete our investigation we will take a decision. We can’t keep the site like this,” he said.

The investigation and report by the technical committee is expected to be ready within a few days.

Sources said the building was worth between Dh70 million (US$19m) and Dh100m.

Mr al Maidour said the contractor has been questioned by police as is normal procedure and that any charges would only be made after the investigation was complete.

Dubai Municipality issued a statement yesterday indicating that contrary to some media reports, none of its officials had been arrested over the incident.

Al Hazza Building Contracting Company, a Sharjah-based company, was employed at the work site. When contacted, the office staff said no one was available for comment.

The incident has raised questions about safety at work sites and whether appropriate safety procedures are being followed by contractors.

Overall, the sites are safe, said Mr al Maidour, who pointed out that Sunday’s incident was the first of its kind.

“Over 78,000 sites were under construction and being monitored at the same moment that this happened,” he said.

“Millions of square feet are being checked by our inspectors and we do not see even crane failures here.”

He said that safety inspectors conducted weekly checks at sites and safety files are compulsory to be kept at all sites.

Two killed as car and bus crash in Sharjah

SHARJAH - AUG 18: Two people died and 33 others are recovering in hospital after one of the worst accidents in the emirate this year.

It happened at about 9pm on Sunday night on the Sharjah ring road near the Traffic and Licensing Department, when a labourers’ bus collided with a saloon car and caught fire, officials said.

The driver of the car was one of the people killed.

Col Eid Mohammed al Madhloom of Sharjah Police said the bus swerved out of its lane and hit a small vehicle that was trying to overtake it at high speed. Two other vehicles then hit the bus, he said. The saloon car caught fire, the blaze spreading to the bus.

Police and rescue personnel responded and were able to rescue some of the injured labourers from the bus.

“Many people were pulled through the windows and the doors as they desperately cried for help when their bus got on fire immediately after the accident,” Col al Madhloom said.

“The police and rescue teams’ immediate arrival on the scene helped to save many.”

The identities of the two people who died at the scene have not been released by police. The 33 injured were taken to Kuwaiti and Al Qassimi hospitals.

A senior official from Kuwaiti Hospital said more than 20 people were being treated yesterday in the emergency section. The patients were all making promising progress, he added.

Col al Madhloom said speeding and failure to pay attention while changing lanes contributed to the accident.

“We urge motorists to be calm on the road, follow all the traffic rules and always leave enough space between vehicles,” he added.

Holy month theme is ‘reaching out’

DUBAI - AUG 18: The themes of this year’s Ramadan celebration are generosity, self-reflection and including others in the spirit of the time, Dubai’s Islamic authority said yesterday.

Dr Hamad al Shaibani, director general of the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD), said even a visitor spending a short time in transit at the airport should be given a chance of leaving with a good impression of “what it all means”.

“Every Muslim should take it upon themselves to act like a messenger of graciousness, tolerance and embody all the values expected of a good Muslim,” Dr al Shaibani said.

He made the remarks at an event promoting the season’s planned religious and charitable activities, one of many this week as the Government, organisations, businesses and individuals prepare for the holy month ahead. Ramadan is expected to begin on Friday.

In Dubai, more than 5,000 lectures are to be held at mosques during fasting hours, after the iftar meal at sunset, and well into the night. Many of the lessons and lectures will be given in several languages including Russian, given the rise of Russian converts to the faith.

“We are trying to reach out to everyone and help them celebrate with us this holy month,” said Mohammed al Muhairi, the director of the Direction and Guidance Department at the IACAD.

The authority will also put together a team of “beautiful voices” reciting the Quran, who will read in main mosques in Deira and Bur Dubai.

Scholars and religious figures will be flown in, and UAE scholars will travel to countries such as Canada, Switzerland and Britain to meet members of growing Muslim communities.

“There are more Muslims each year, and so we try to reach out to them and guide them along the way,” said Mr al Muhairi.

The Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein Cultural Islamic Centres in Mazhar and Umm al Sheif will open to women and children every night from 9pm until midnight, offering food, entertainment, competitions and gift boxes including religious books on the life of the Prophet Mohammed.

In Abu Dhabi, the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment is to announce its Ramadan plans at a press conference today.

The Emirates Heritage Club in the capital will hold its fourth Ramadan festival under the patronage of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed, the club’s president. The festival will feature religious lectures, discussion on philosophy and educational competitions from 9.30pm in the Abu Dhabi Theatre and Cultural Village.

Yesterday the community police in Abu Dhabi announced they would again distribute free iftar meals to motorists on Abu Dhabi roads.

Takatof, the Emirates Foundation’s voluntary programme, signalled plans to distribute food, offer financial advice and even provide home renovations to 700 poor families over the coming month.

“The Ramadan programme aims to offer direct support to poor families through volunteers, in order to meet the needs of society and spread volunteer culture and awareness,” said Maytha al Habsi, director of Takatof.

The charity has interviewed 400 of the families and will focus on those with the most pressing needs.

While most shopping outlets will remain shut during fasting hours, once diners head out for their iftar meal they will be greeted with smoke from shisha and incense as many restaurants and hotels add their Ramadan tents.

In Dubai, the Atlantis Hotel was preparing to celebrate its first Ramadan with a massive tent on the beach for nightly iftar buffets.

One local tent company said the demand was so high it sold out of rentals for the month.

“There’s no point in even having more than one employee in the office, because we can’t take on any more business,” said a staff member at Al Khaleej Tents, which has offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

Some malls were getting creative with their charitable work in Ramadan, with Wafi Mall raising money for the Red Crescent organisation through the hugely popular TV characters from Freej.

Shoppers will get the chance to meet life-sized Um Saeed, Um Saloom, Um Allawi and Um Khammas, who will be hugging and greeting people every weekend in the Khan Murjan section of Wafi. All proceeds from merchandise sales will be donated to the Red Crescent.

In Ras al Khaimah, the Cultural Centre will have a three-week Ramadan festival, with nightly events starting at 8.30pm that include poetry recitals, Islamic seminars and quiz nights.

Sarjah Charity International yesterday announced plans to raise up to Dh50 million (US$13.6m) during Ramadan to help run its programmes throughout the year. The charity said it planned to feed 2,000 Sharjah families by providing daily iftar baskets, and would host free iftar tents in Sharjah, Kalba, Dhaid and Khor Fakkan.

Despite the global recession, the charity was confident that people would still donate to the poor, said Abdullah Sultan bin Khadim, its executive director and a member of the Sharjah Consultative Council.


“Our major target are medium income earners, those who can go to a supermarket and drop Dh5 or Dh10 in the box for charity to the poor,” he said. “Those who have gone through the same poverty in life, they understand what we say when we appeal for them to give ... not the super-rich affected by the recession.”



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