By Athuman Mtulya
Dar es Salaam, (The Citizen Reporter & The Muslim News): As the official death toll of the disaster caused by a high-rise building that collapsed in Dar es Salaam rose to at least 25, including 4 children, experts have warned that similar incidents are looming due to serious compromises of construction standards.
The major finger of blame is being pointed at the Government, for disregarding recommendations by a special committee appointed by former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, one of which was assessment of all major buildings in Dar es Salaam.
Anger also stems from the fact that, no serious action has been taken against those who were responsible for previous similar disasters, which they feel has given confidence to crooks in the construction industry to act criminally.
In June 2008, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda remarked: ‘’I have read the report today and it has some shocking findings,’’ in reference to the collapse a ten-storey structure along Mtendeni Street in Dar es Salaam which left three people dead.
One of the key findings of Lowassa’s committee was that mushrooming storey building in the city and other parts of the country had been built illegally, without observing construction rules and regulations.
The report revealed that some greedy contractors and their clients were using unqualified personnel to supervise construction works.
The ratio of construction materials, including cement, sand, iron steel, electrical and other installations did not match required standards, said the report.
Construction experts pointed out that weaknesses in building supervision was contributing to construction tragedies.
According to Dr Nicholas Makoba, a building economist, the chronic problem of compromising professionalism poses a great risk to human lives.
He said trouble occured when clients want to save budgeted funds, forcing engineers and other professionals to compromise standards.
A city resident, Meshack Mwisilo, wondered aloud when he spoke to The Citizen on Sunday: “How can we speak of moving forward if we have failed to implement the Lowassa report? Have you ever seen any serious operation to inspect buildings in Kariakoo? I tell you we should expect more disasters sooner than later,” he complained bitterly.
Earlier reports suggested that 60 people were trapped under rubbles at the site of the latest disaster and hopes of finding survivors were fading as the rescue operation got into the second day.
Of the 17 injured persons, 10 are still hospitalised while the rest had been treated and discharged.
The rescue operation was yesterday more focused that had earlier been the case, and gained pace after a Chinese engineering firm, China Railway Construction Engineering Group (CRJE), joined Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) for the mission.
Other firms that took part in search and rescue operations were Tanzania Road Haulage and Strabag, a German construction company undertaking the Dar Rapid Transit project.
Many people also lent support to the rescue operation yesterday.
However, Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner (RC) Sadick Meck Sadick said the authorities were still facing the challenge of ensuring that all recovered bodies were in good shape.
“These are human beings. They deserve proper burial; that’s why every time we see the possibility of finding a body, we don’t use bulldozers. Manual work takes time but we can’t ignore the sensitivity surrounding the issue,” he explained. Meanwhile, the RC has ordered that construction work on a building opposite the ill-fated one, by the same contractor, be stopped immediately.
President Jakaya Kikwete visited the scene of the tragedy for the second day yesterday, and ordered the arrest of City Council’s Construction Engineer, Quantity Surveyor and Architecture.
“Letting the construction work reaching this stage means they were coming here to inspect this building,” the visibly upset President said.
The Khoja Shia Ithnasheri community which owns a mosque adjacent to the ill-fated building provided food to rescue team members, as well as relatives of those believed to be still trapped, who camped at the site. Overcome by emotion, a mother of a missing boy who had been playing in the compound, collapsed after crying uncontrollably for a long time.
“We are anguished, bereaved and furious, but now is the time to recover by reaching out and giving comfort, support and counseling to the families of the marhums. But then we are all affected and every one of us needs the support and comfort of each other,” said spokesman for Khoja Shia Ithnaasheri Jamaat, whose mosque is next to the collapsed building.
He said there was “outpour of sympathy and support” from all communities and this is “proof of Allah’s presence amongst us.”
“The Sikhs carrying the water, the Hindus at the front gate table, the Bohoras at the clearing site on a bulldozer, the Ismailias hosting us for food at the Jamaat Khana, and so many others that the eye and the heart could not capture. Of course our brothers and sister were all over the site spending sleepless nights there. Allah will reward you all,” he added.
Yesterday, two people being sought by the police force surrendered to the law enforcers, raising the number of those being held for questioning to six.
The owner of Lucky Construction LTD, the main contractor of the ill-fated building, Ibrahim Kissoky ,59, who is also a Counselor for Bunju ward, gave himself in at 01:00 pm at the Central police station.
Kissoky was on the run from Monday and was given a 12-hour from yesterday morning to surrender to the police.
The Consulting Engineer of the building, Zonazea Bushudada, also surrendered at the Central police station at around 01:30 pm.
Police have also arrested the owner of the building MS Ladha and three others. Ilala Municipal officials were arrested on Friday, including the Chief Engineer, Quantity Surveyor and Construction Engineer.
Chairman of the opposition party Civic United Front (CUF) Prof. Ibrahim Lipumba visited the site and urged the government to invest on disaster management strategies and infrastructure.
According to Lipumba, the rescue proficiency is still poor and was the cause of otherwise avoidable deaths and injuries.
“The quality of construction too is very poor; how was this project given the green-light in the first place? This whole situation is alarming,” he remarked.