ABU DHABI // Teachers who were living at a residential development where a courtyard collapsed last year will be able to choose whether they return or not.
The courtyard at Al Rayyana development, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, plunged one floor down into an underground car park on September 30. Eight cars were damaged but no one was injured in the incident, the cause of which is still being investigated.
Tenants, most of whom were teachers working for the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec), were relocated.
Last week Al Rayyana’s master developer, Sorouh, said tenants are expected to be able to move back into the development in the third quarter of this year.
Adec has told The National that moving back or selecting Al Rayyana as a housing location is an option to any of its staff but none will be forced back there if they don’t want to be there.
It said whether it places its employees there in the future depends on the “project safety condition” along with “assurances from the concerned government departments and the developer”.
One former Al Rayyana resident and Adec employee said he believed people had signed leases for new apartments and so would not go back.
“I think everyone seems to be quite content. It was a bit of an ordeal but it wasn’t the end of the world and everyone was safe. I think that was the main thing,” the teacher, who didn’t want to be named, said.
He said everyone he knew had been moved to accommodation on Reem Island and he believes that’s where the majority are.
“It’s closer to town so people are kind of happy about that. I don’t think I would move back to Al Rayyana,” he added, saying this would be based on preferring his new location, rather than any safety concerns about his former home.
Adec employees who were living at the site were given Dh3,000 after the incident to cover immediate costs, such as replacing food that had went off in their fridges and to buy new clothes after they were evacuated.
“We were told it was going to come out of our wages eventually but that was three or four months ago and we still have not got it taken off us, so whether they [Adec] will by the end of the year or not, I don’t know,” the employee said.
Last Wednesday, master developer Sorouh said tenants are expected to be able to move into the development between July and September this year.
“Remediation design is currently under way and tenants are expected to be able to move back into the development in the third quarter of 2013,” it said in a financial results announcement.
A spokesman for Sorouh, Abu Dhabi’s second biggest listed property developer, told The National that the collapsed courtyard has not yet been rebuilt but he said the company is currently designing how to rebuild and reinforce it.
“All the remedial works will be completed before any tenants are allowed to move back in,” he added.
Meanwhile, an investigation into the cause of the collapse continues.
“The official investigation is still ongoing with the authorities and details of which can only be released by the appropriate authorities at their discretion,” he said.
“It is unclear at this stage when the official investigation will be finished and it is for them to comment.”
There were just over 300 tenants in the 33-building development at the time of the incident, representing a 25 per cent occupancy.
Of these, 194 were Adec staff and the rest were employees of Défense Conseil International (DCI), a French government-related defence company.
The Sorouh spokesman said other developments were sourced and paid for by the company for the tenants to live in.
He told The National that the contracts both Adec and DCIG have with the master developer for their employees to have accommodation at Al Rayyana remain intact.
When asked if other courtyards at the currently vacant site were being reviewed, he said: “As you would expect, any similar structures are being reviewed as part of the investigation.
“We will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure we comply with the recommendations from the investigation.”