Builder Denies Responsibility, Compensates Victims of Sinking Flats

Nguyen Sieu residents dare not enter their homes

Residents of a five-story Ho Chi Minh City apartment that sank and cracked two days ago, due to construction next door, will be accommodated and compensated, said the contactor, who nonetheless denied responsibility, at a press conference yesterday.

Hoa Binh Shareholding Real Estate Trading and Construction Company Director Le Van Hai said he had already apologized to over 100 residents living at the Nguyen Sieu Apartment Building and donated VND1.5 million (under US$100) to each.

No one was hurt when the Nguyen Sieu, which was built before 1975, sank 2-3 cm after Hoa Binh workers dug down to a groundwater stream while preparing the foundation for the high-rise Saigon Residences at 11D Thi Sach, District 1.

Nguyen Sieu residents were given a choice of evacuating to another flat block on Nguyen Trai Street, also in District 1, or to other accommodation to be covered by Hoa Binh.

Hai promised to compensate up to VND2 million (some US$123) a month per displaced Nguyen-Sieu resident.

Hoa Binh noted, however, that it is now planning to buy out the damaged Nguyen Sieu, demolish it and redevelop the lot.

Questionable conduct?

Reports have it that the Nguyen Sieu had actually started showing cracks back in June and the Saigon Residences project was then halted once already.

The Construction Quality Control Company (CQCC) of the Department of Construction (DoC) then discovered the foundation shared by the Nguyen Sieu and Saigon Residences was both weak and fractured.

When bombarded by the press why Hoa Binh did not fortify the foundation instead of merely filling in its cracks, Hai said his firm only needed to fix anything directly resulting from his firm’s construction activities.

He added that CQCC neither required nor requested additional fortification at the time.

He termed the recent incident “extraordinary”, saying Hoa Binh had taken all measures necessary, including vibration-proofing to minimize impact on surrounding structures and that Hoa Binh’s project met all technical and procedural requirements set out by relevant agencies.

Key player no where to be found. Authorities incompetent?

Meanwhile, the Saigon Apartment Joint Venture, the Saigon Residences project commissioner, is no where to be found and has not released any official statement on the incident.

The company merely telephoned several city officials to inform them its management board is now convening, in Singapore.

DoC Deputy Director Nguyen Van Hiep also pleaded his agency could not constantly monitor all construction projects in the city due to staff shortages and a mushrooming market.

To make matters worse, he complained, fines for construction violations are trivial and easily absorbed by developers as merely part of their operating expenses.

The Department is to announce several hotlines this week for the public and competent agencies to contact if they detect poor quality construction.

According to city People’s Committee First Deputy Chairman [Deputy Mayor] Nguyen Thanh Tai, local government will soon invite experts to draw a geological map of the city for referencing weak soil formations and foundations.

Meanwhile, just hours before the aforementioned press conference, an eighth-grader at the Luong Dinh Cua Junior High School in the city’s district 2 was swallowed up by a 1-meter-deep pit after she jumped from a rostrum in her classroom.

Upon landing, she sank into the hole which opened up after the floor cracked open.

Experts concluded the room was built on yet another weak foundation which should have been fortified already.

Last month, the three-storey Institute of Social Sciences for Southern Viet Nam, in District 1, seriously sagged and cracked when the basement of another high-rise project next door, the Pacific Building, was being dug.

By Staff Writers – Translated by BH

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