x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Criminal probe into collapse of Abu Dhabi courtyard

Al Rayyana development’s consultant and building contractor are summoned for questioning with municipality chief engineer.

A huge concrete slab between three tower blocks of the development plunged one floor down into an underground car park. Courtesy of Al Ittihad
A huge concrete slab between three tower blocks of the development plunged one floor down into an underground car park. Courtesy of Al Ittihad

ABU DHABI // The emirate’s attorney general Yousef Saeed Al Ibri ordered prosecutors yesterday to investigate whether criminal charges should be pursued over the collapse of a landscaped residential courtyard.

Public prosecution has summoned the consultant and building contractor on the project, and the municipality’s chief engineer, for questioning. The contractor, Pivot, declined to comment.

A special independent committee will examine the site to determine the cause of the collapse, and report directly to the Attorney General’s Technical Office.

Investigators are on site at Al Rayyana development on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi city, where a 1,400 square-metre concrete slab between three tower blocks plunged one floor down into an underground car park on Sunday evening. Eight vehicles were damaged but no one was injured.

A spokesman for the project’s master developer, Sorouh, said it was working closely with the authorities in the investigation.

“We expect a preliminary report from the independent consultants in the coming days and will act immediately on the recommendations,” he said.

As a precautionary measure, the remaining courtyards and one of the children’s playgrounds in the 33-tower development have been taped off. The buildings have been evacuated and all the residents moved until the investigation is complete.

Once the preliminary investigation is carried out, the spokesman said Sorouh would carry out its own independent investigation.

“Therefore, it is commissioning a separate independent structural assessment for the entire development before people can move back in,” he said.

One of the development’s main tenants, Abu Dhabi Educational Council, said it was finding alternative accommodation for its staff. Officials said the council had no intention of returning tenants to any of the 189 apartments spread across six buildings in the development.

On Sunday night, 194 Adec staff and their families were moved to the Yas Viceroy Hotel. Adec officials met employees yesterday and said they should return to work this morning.

Ahmed Al Shamsi, general services division manager for Adec’s support services sector, said new accommodation elsewhere in the capital had been procured.

“Teachers will stay in the hotel till they move to their new apartments. New apartments have already been arranged,”

He said some staff had already been moved “to various apartments located in luxurious areas across the capital city”.

One teacher, who has been at the Yas Viceroy since Sunday night, said employees were not told about the new apartments at a meeting today.

“There hasn’t been a clue about new apartments,” he said. “They’ve denied the hotel was booked for 14 days and said we are taking it day by day.”

There were heated exchanges at the meeting, which was attended by most of the staff. “There wasn’t shouting but people were upset,” the teacher said. “Many people are traumatised and were annoyed that they wanted us to go back to work so soon. Some people were thinking of not going back until Thursday, or even on Sunday, to get over it.

“It’s not easy to think that a place you made your home for a month could have crumbled into the ground and you along with it. We now have to rebuild that trust in everything here again.”

Défense Conseil International Group, a French government-related defence company, had taken 287 of the larger flats in seven buildings on a 30-year lease, but had only 80 filled at the time of the collapse. The company has moved all its employees out of the development.

Twenty-five additional apartments were leased to a healthcare provider, Sorouh said.

The teacher said he never saw the courtyard empty in the evenings.

“Usually people were out having a cigarette on the courtyard. People would always go out on it for a chat in the evenings. I am amazed no one was on it when it fell,” he said.