“Careless contractors” to blame for cracked buildings, says government

Carelessness on behalf of contractors was to blame for large cracks that appeared in several high profile shops in Male’ on Thursday, a investigation by the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) and Housing Ministry has found.

On Thursday evening the foundations of the Seylam building, adjacent to the Agora supermarket on Male’s main road Majeedee Magu, slid due to the construction of Jambuge next door.

Residents living in the building abandoned it and were forced to move to other areas that evening, while police cordoned off the area as people gathered to see the cracks.

Speaking after the incident, Deputy Minister for Environment Dr Mohamed Shareef said that shallow foundations of both buildings had structural weaknesses that caused them to slide when nearby contractors pumped water from underground.

‘’We found out that the Checkmark building [a prominent garment shop next to Agora] had a shallow foundation of 1.3 metres and building next to it had a foundation of 2.5 meters, and when the Jambuge contractors evacuated the water from the foundations, it caused the foundation of the Checkmark building to slide,’’ said Dr Shareef. “The Checkmark building was also constructed very weakly and carelessly.’’

Dr Shareef said although similar incidents could lead buildings to fall, “there was no serious damage caused this time.’’

‘’The government can introduce sophisticated laws, but if people are not implementing it won’t do any good,” he said. “Police and the ministry can’t always observe whenever a building is constructed, and contractors should pay more attention to nearby buildings when constructing take the safety precautions.’’

He suggested that it would be more helpful if the contractors “gained some knowledge about engineering.”

The dense construction of high concrete buildings around Male’ on often shallow poorly-constructed foundations has occasionally led to fears that parts of the city could collapse if too much pressure is placed on the brittle reef.

State Minister for Fisheries and Agriculture Dr Mohamed Ali revealed in May this year that cracks had been discovered in Male’ reef that could potentially cause the reef to collapse.

The cracks in the Malé reef were “serious problems because it is the reef on which we are building this infrastructure.”

In January sheet piles near Nasandura Palace Hotel slid and created a hole on the street outside. Some experts suggested that the cause of the cracks were heavy structures on the reef such as buildings, and warned there would be consequences if heavy structures were built in these sensitive areas.