SHARJAH // Six workers were injured when a partially completed car park collapsed yesterday and the toll could have been much worse, officials said. The structure had been filled with more than 100 labourers minutes earlier. Just after they left for their lunch break, the structure - designed to hold 1,681 cars on each of its nine storeys - fell with a sound resembling an explosion, witnesses said.
Muzzafar Khan, a grocery shop owner in the neighbourhood, said he heard a loud noise about 12.30pm, followed by a number of workers running from the building site. Only a handful of scaffolding poles remained upright after the collapse, which left four workers with moderate injuries and two with minor injuries. The incident is the latest of several structural failures of buildings under construction and comes two weeks after the death of one worker in a roof collapse.
Work on the Dh86 million (US$23.4m) car park for Sharjah Municipality in the largely residential Abu Shagara district began three months ago. Brigadier Mohammed al Hudaidi, the head of the Sharjah Police, arrived at the scene minutes after the collapse to help in the rescue effort. He said the injured workers were recovering in Kuwait Hospital and that the police would investigate the collapse with the municipality.
Some Sharjah officials considered the low injury toll an outright miracle. "It's God's plan that it happened during the rest hours," said Col Waheed al Serkal, the head of Sharjah Civil Defence. "Most of the workers had gone out to their accommodation. If it was another time, it would have been disastrous." One Indian labourer working on a nearby building said two of his friends had a narrow escape.
"I had seen them on the top of the building some hours back, they were pouring the concrete on that day," said the worker, who identified himself as Mahdi, 26. He said he later rushed back to their camp to confirm that his friends were not among the injured. While no arrests have been made in connection with the collapse, officers were interviewing the building engineers, Brig al Hudaidi said. No one from Bharath Tower Foundation, the contractors for the building, would comment yesterday.
Sultan al Mualla, the director general of Sharjah Municipality, said the building had been designated structurally sound. Municipal officials had inspected the site about 8.30am yesterday and found no abnormalities, allowing workers to continue with their work. After the collapse, authorities cordoned off most of the area, closing the roads leading to the building. Emergency vehicles struggled to make their way through the crowds as residents gathered to see what had happened.
Though police dogs had been brought on the scene to help search for anyone trapped in the rubble, Brig al Hudaidi later said no one was found. Col Mohammed Eid al Madhloom, the head of the Sharjah Police operations room, said police were alerted by engineers on the scene. He said emergency workers' immediate response helped to save the lives of the injured. Builders had just completed work on the structure's first floor, according to one engineer working on the building who preferred not to be named. He said construction had begun in July and was expected to last for 16 months.
Taha Hafifi, 32, died two weeks ago when the roof of a building collapsed as concrete was poured onto it in Ras al Khaimah. His death came a month and a half after the complete collapse of a building under construction in the Deira district of Dubai, which an investigation committee later blamed on a design fault. In that instance, 21 workers fled the building shortly after hearing it creak. The most serious recent incident occurred last year in Ajman, where six men died at the Laguna Beach Hotel, as a concrete floor was being poured above the basement.
The car park that collapsed yesterday was one of 40 that Sharjah Municipality had announced would be built in the coming five years to ease a chronic lack of parking.