[WATCH] Gwardamanga house’s wall torn out in construction fracas

Photos show living room wall losing its common wall due to neighbouring construction on same day that industry stakeholders meet Prime Minister

‘Look at what they have done’… the affected neighbour reacts to the damage incurred
‘Look at what they have done’… the affected neighbour reacts to the damage incurred

The common wall of a neighbouring house in a Gwardamanga construction site on St Luke Road has been torn out during works, in yet another harrowing construction accident.

Nobody has been injured in the incident and residents in adjacent buildings have been evacuated. The police have also cordoned off the area as it has not yet been declared safe.

The original house in Gwardamangia as it stood
The original house in Gwardamangia as it stood

The architect who was commissioned to inspect the safety of the site before work began told MaltaToday that he had warned the developer not to start works.

Residents have been told by members of the Civil Protection Department that they will be able to return to their homes at roughly 5pm.

Sandro Chetcuti, the president of the Malta Developers Association which currently finds itself in the eye of the storm on construction safety, is also on site speaking with residents.

MDA President Sandro Chetcuti
MDA President Sandro Chetcuti

Pieta mayor Keith Tanti is also on site speaking with concerned residents. He said the priority at the moment was to ensure that residents had basic needs. “We’re talking simple stuff like a toothbrush. They have everything trapped in there, their clothes, their cash.” 

He said it was too early to speak about where the residents would be staying tonight. “It is early but hopefully by this evening the situation will have been resolved.”

MaltaToday understands from photos it has received that works on a could have been ongoing at the time of the accident.

The photos show the wall to one of the front rooms of the neighbouring house entirely removed, revealing the contents of the house.

One of the residents who lived in the house and who spoke to MaltaToday said that cracks in his tiles had started to show before the accident.

The incident comes on the day that industry stakeholders will be meeting the Prime Minister to discuss safety measures that can avert similar incidents.

This is the third major accident following the collapse of an entire block of apartments in Gwardamangia and Mellieha over the past two months.

MDA shocked by incident

In a statement, the MDA said it was shocked by the incident. It said it was obvious that excavation works were being undertaken on sites without a thorough investigation on the “structural situation of the party walls that adjacent to proposed works and that the structural stability of such walls cannot be taken for granted”.

“MDA joins the general public on the need that something must be urgently done about this issue,” the association said, adding that it would support any action taken by government to safeguard public safety.

Ombudsman writes to Prime Minister

The Commissioner for planning and the environment within the office of the Ombudsman has also expressed its concern at the present situation.

In his letter, sent last Monday, the commissioner notes that while the Civil Code precludes any developer from carrying out any excavations within 76cm of common walls, “a look around the plans submitted across the island shows that this is being discarded”.

The only remedy for residents concerned about their property was through court, which was often not quick enough and financially prohibitive for many.

The commissioner also noted that it had become common practice for residents to forgo their rights in return for monetary compensation, adding that this is illegal as well as a public safety concern.

The letter calls for criminal proceedings against contractors that break the law and as well as a number of other proposals to address sites were irregularities are taking place.

Set up the Building and Construction Authority immediately – PD

The Democratic Party accused the government of colluding with the construction lobby, given that to date, its pledge to set up a building and construction authority has not yet materialised.

It said the construction industry had become “the backbone of government’s economic policy and was fast becoming a pre-determinate of health”

The party noted that the “recent accidental collapse of residences at Mellieha and G’Mangia adjacent to building sites are not only eye openers but symptoms of a broken system that needs urgent fixing and immediate ownership”.