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TC Evan exposes 'alarming number of damage' to new homes

Felix Chaudhary
Thursday, January 10, 2013

STRUCTURAL failures caused by Tropical Cyclone Evan should not have happened.

This, according to the chairman of the Fiji Institute of Engineers (FIE), Pratap Singh.

Speaking at a Local Government consultative forum in Lautoka yesterday, Mr Singh warned that members of the FIE found to be involved in unethical practices or acting irresponsibly would face disciplinary action.

Special administrators in the Western Division had expressed concern at the high number of structural damage suffered by new buildings.

They said rigorous building codes were in place but Cyclone Evan had exposed defects in building processes, as evident in the alarmingly number of damage to new homes.

"It is my personal view that lack of supervision, poor construction practices and incompetency resulted in some buildings being severely affected," he said.

"Doctor George Walker from the Cyclone Testing Centre in Townsville, Australia, will be here to educate engineers, look at the failures that occurred and look at ways in which these could be prevented in the future. While the forum is primarily for engineers, we are also extending an invitation to municipal councils to attend this forum on January 18 in Nadi," he said.

A total of 86 schools and close to 6000 homes were partially or completely destroyed by TC Evan.

However, these figures are not conclusive as officers from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces have yet to complete verification of destroyed properties.

The damage bill for schools has been pegged at close to $5million and rising, while the cost to residential structures has yet to be ascertained.

In Lautoka, a popular school that reported the destruction of a new school block estimated the damage repair bill at $418,000.

Municipal council heads said it was obvious that some engineers and architects failed to abide by building codes and regulations. Similar concerns were also expressed by Local Government Minister Colonel Samuela Saumatua.

"The need to address the structural weaknesses highlighted by TC Evan is a priority because disasters are more common nowadays," he said.

Ba and Tavua special administrator Arun Prasad said there had been developments in some areas where engineers and architects failed to take into consideration zoning requirements.

"This has resulted in conflicts between councils and developers because engineers and architects did not inform developers of the zoning issue. In some cases, engineers and architects submitted plans and then began amending these plans resulting in developments often going above and beyond what was originally designed and submitted," he said.

Mr Singh responded that the names of engineers found to be engaging in unethical practices or not in accordance with regulations should be forwarded to the FIE.

"If the complaints are made in writing and the engineers are our members, they will be disciplined and be dealt with. If an engineer is found to be guilty of misconduct and not on our list, then our hands are tied and we can't do anything that is why it is important for councils to use competent and credible people that are members of FIE.

We can only discipline our own members," he said.

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