Friday, August 18, 2017

Hlaing River collapse raises safety concerns

A riverbank collapse on the Hlaing River that is thought to have claimed the life of a young child has raised concerns about the structural safety of Yangon’s riverside buildings.

A number of buildings, including a hostel, restaurant and 7200-square-foot two storey structure, were damaged in the collapse at Hlaing Tharyar township’s Industrial Zone 6 in the early hours of May 27.

A five-year-old child is still missing, presumed dead, Weekly Eleven reported last week.

The report said huge cracks appeared in the buildings in the area three days before the incident.

Developers said the collapse was partly seasonal but older buildings were particularly at risk.

“Riverside buildings are particularly prone to collapse when the water level rises because erosion is more likely. The risk of collapse probably doubles in rainy season,” said U Ko Ko Lay, a director of Three Friends Construction.

“I heard the collapsed building was not structurally sound … and they had done any preparations, such as a soil test. These are the two important reasons for the collapse of a building on soft bedrock,” he said.

“I’ve run a small business for cold storage at Pyapon for many years and we normally built using the traditional piling method. We don’t have much awareness to do proper pile foundation at all,” he said. “If there are any structural flaws, like large cracks, you should definitely evacuate straight away.”

U Lazarus, managing director of Yadanar Shwe Htun Construction, said where possible buildings should be set bank from the water.

“Developers should totally avoid [building on the riverbank] if possible. Structural faults can be detected later … This situation is very risky,” U Lazarus said.

The collapse has raised fears that many other buildings along the Hlaing River – particularly hostels and restaurants built by fisheries companies for their staff – could also be at risk.

“I think buildings should be at least 30 feet (9 metres) back from the river’s edge and if that’s not possible the buildings should be constructed carefully with structural safety in mind. Otherwise, the combination of soil erosion and high water level can swallow the building,” said U Lazarus.