Six-week blitz on canopies after collapse
Jennifer Ngo, Jennifer Lo and Martin Wong
The Buildings Department will carry out a six-week special inspection on 4,000 buildings with canopies similar to the one that collapsed in Tuen Mun, seriously injuring a man on Thursday night.
Department officials said the inspection on cantilevered slab canopies would start from today.
Such canopies are supported at one end only and particular attention needed to be paid to maintenance and repair, said Vincent Ho Kui-yip, chairman of the Institute of Surveyors' building surveying division.
'There is no support to the canopy other than the steel bars and the concrete connecting the wall and the canopy,' he said.
'When a failure occurs at the connection point, the whole structure will fall down, usually without any warning sign.'
Lau Yau-wing, 51, was in critical condition in Tuen Mun Hospital last night. His leg was crushed under the collapsed slab at the Winfield Industrial Building in Kin Kwan Street.
Emergency work to stabilise the rest of the canopy was carried out by the Buildings Department yesterday and will continue for about a week. The department will take about a month to complete an investigative report.
Ho said water leakage would cause damage to the steel bars and concrete of the canopy.
'When there is a crack that one can see in a canopy, it already means water can get into it causing damage to the canopy structure. Any water seepage is a big sign that safety is at risk and that a quick repair should be carried out immediately,' he said.
A garage owner on the ground floor of the building said he complained about the leakage and poor conditions of the concrete canopy to the owners' corporation and the government many times. His shop was seriously damaged and had to close.
'There has been serious water leakage in the canopy and even the shops inside since six or seven years ago, and the problem turned worse recently,' said Wong Chi-kin, owner of K & F Car Services Company, which has been operating there for the past 10 years.
'There were even little chunks of concrete falling down from time to time over the past three or four years, but nothing much has been done.'
Wong added that the whole building had been in bad shape for the past few years, with only superficial repairs being made. The owner of a hardware store confirmed the problem was long standing.
'I reported the problem to the Buildings Department 10 years ago. They came and then left with no follow-up action taken. I complained to the department again last year, and again nothing was done,' the owner, Chu Leung-ming, said.
He also said seepage occurred not only in the canopy, but in shops inside the building.
The Buildings Department said the building was targeted in a crackdown on unauthorised building works on external walls in 2001. More than 30 removal orders were issued in the operation and all but one were complied with. The outstanding order was unrelated to the canopy.