[WATCH] Update 2 | Guardamangia building collapse: 'It’s 2019, how can this happen?'

On Guardamangia Hill, three apartments and a Transport Malta office next to a construction site were destroyed, leaving residents homeless and bewildered

What remains of the collapsed apartment block
What remains of the collapsed apartment block
Guardamangia building collapse: 'How can this happen in 2019?'

Updated at 3:30pm with Prime Minister's comments

Jessica Rossino, pregnant with her second child, had to move to a friend’s dwelling after her apartment was deemed unsafe by police and members of the Civil Protection Department.

She is one of several shocked residents who live in the neighbourhood where an apartment block collapsed on Wednesday night.

The area has been cordoned off for safety reasons
The area has been cordoned off for safety reasons

“How can something like this happen in 2019?” she asked when MaltaToday spoke to her the morning after the incident.

Rossino said that she started hearing a trickle, similar to the sound of rain on Wednesday night. As she, her husband, her dog and her small child started leaving their apartment, the trickle metamorphosed into loud, bombing sounds.

“We were terrified; I have a baby at home. I thought it was a car accident. But when we saw the collapsed building, we were surprised that something like this could happen in 2019,” Rossino said.

Once outside, they saw the wreckage. Three apartments, including Transport Malta's Theory Testing Centre, had been pulled apart. Authorities are unable to tell what caused the building to collapse.

Rubble can be seen scattered across the street
Rubble can be seen scattered across the street

“We don’t know what to do next. We’re going to stay with friends for now,” Rossino said, adding that she and her family had been renting from a friend who was willing to help them out. She sympathised with the residents who were less fortunate, who have had their homes destroyed.

These residents told MaltaToday that they have not slept a wink and are still in a state of shock. “This is a tragedy, but we’re thankful to have escaped with our lives,” one resident said, as she told us how on the previous night, she and her husband were sleeping when they started hearing a ripping sound.

“We had complained about the construction site many times before, but we never expected this to happen,” one resident said.

The collapsed building is situated next door to a construction site. Residents inside escaped alive because only the front part of their apartment collapsed.

'I’m here to help the residents not to investigate'

Home Affairs Minister Michael Farrugia, who was on the scene on Thursday morning, told MaltaToday that he came on site to address the needs of the residents who were still outside their home from the previous night, lamenting their loss.

“I’m not an investigative person,” Farrugia said. “I had some basic information about the site and have now come to speak to contractors and residents. I’ll follow that and let the investigative magistrate delve into what happened and whether there were any assurances.

Minister for Home Affairs, Michael Farrugia on sight
Minister for Home Affairs, Michael Farrugia on sight

“These people aren’t just mourning their lost home, some are foreign and had their documentation inside the building. The problems are various. I’m here to help. We’re looking into possible solutions where they can rest their heads—the Housing Authority and multiple hotels.”

Farrugia said that the responsibility for overseeing the safety of workers on construction sites falls into the lap of the Occupational Health and Safety.

“I know that they take frequent action and that they do their job... Police aren't architects, they aren’t engineers, so they will have to rely on reports conducted by architects,” he said.

Farrugia said that the instructions for now are very rigid—residents are to stay away from buildings that are at risk of collapsing as they seek shelter in government housing and nearby hotels.

Transport Malta released a statement on the morning after the incident to inform that theory tests were suspended for the time being since part of building that collapsed included the Transport Malta office.

While it apologised for the inconvenience, Transport Malta said that an alternative location is being looked at. Proceedings will carry on as normal in the old building on Gwardamangia Hill on 2 May.

Joseph Muscat: 'accident should not characterise the construction sector'

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that this accident shouldn't be employed to characterise the construction sector.

"It's a lesson learnt so that construction procedures and regulations should be followed adequately," he told members of the media. "We need to wait for investigations and magisterial inquiries to conclude."

Despite this, Muscat said that we shouldn't see the accident as "a blip" either and that authorities needed to ascertain that regulations aren't followed just on paper but spot-checks should be carried out on a regular basis.

"My information is that the authorities concerned did not receive any reports. I'm not contradicting the residents. They might have filed reports with the project management but not to the authorities concerned," Muscat said.

READ ALSO: Apartment block collapses in Guardamangia