The blast that ripped through Abbas Town on Sunday evening was so powerful that it completely destroyed 70 flats and damaged hundreds more.
As the dust settled, the authorities realised that the two blocks of the apartment complex - Iqra City and Rabia Flowers - have been damaged beyond repairs. They estimate that Rs67 million are needed to rebuild these apartments.
“The force of the blast was devastating,” said architect Zia Jaffery, who is part of a government-sponsored team of experts that assessed the structures. “These projects were poorly constructed in the first place and the blast made matters worse. There are cracks in the supporting columns.” Given this situation, the team declared two blocks dangerous.
The experts are part of Sindh Building Control Authority’s (SBCA) technical committee on hazardous buildings which decides if a damaged structure should be demolished or not.
SBCA director-general Manzoor Qadir said that the decision to raze the buildings will be taken in light of the committee’s report. “I haven’t seen the contents of the report but I have been told that few buildings are no longer fit for inhabitants.”
The authority is responsible for ensuring that building bylaws are followed, he said. “If they have been declared dangerous then we will have to tear them down. It is not our job to reconstruct them.”
Sunday’s explosion eroded the facade of Iqra City’s Block-D as balconies facing the street came down and attached rooms were completely destroyed. The cracks were clearly visible in the ground-plus-four storey buildings, which house 54 apartments.
An adjacent E block has also been badly damaged and requires heavy repairs but does not need to be demolished, the committee said.
Rabia Flowers’ A-3 Block bore the brunt of the impact. Its balconies and washrooms have already come down and the supporting columns of the building have been fractured. Around 16 flats in this project will have to be demolished.
While authorities have declared the buildings dangerous, no one was ready to say who will finance the cost of reconstruction.
“These were small three- to four-bedroom apartments spread over at a maximum of 800 square feet,” explained Jaffery. “Obviously these people can’t afford to rebuild them.” Jaffery suggested forming a public-private partnership, similar to one formed after the arson on MA Jinnah Road. It is very unlikely that the builders of the two apartments will step forward to take up the task, admitted a senior member of the Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD). “Under the lease agreement, it is the responsibility of the occupants to pay for repairs,” he said. “Once a project has been completed, the builder is responsible for one-year maintenance and after that he walks away.”
The official estimated that the repairs may cost anywhere between Rs1,000 and Rs1,200 per square foot, but so far the government has not made any promises on who will bear these expenses.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2013.
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