No sign of concrete action since To Kwa Wan tragedy

Department won't say if it has made any of the recommended changes to its inspection regime

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 March, 2013, 4:38am

The Buildings Department appears to have done little to improve its inspection system three years after the collapse of a To Kwa Wan tenement that killed four people, critics say.

And the department isn't saying what recommendations from the Coroner's Court and its own working group, established after the tragedy, have been executed.

This emerged after a 77-year-old building worker, the only person criminally prosecuted after the collapse, was fined yesterday.

Kowloon City district councillor Pius Yum Kwok-tung said he had not seen any concrete action from the government after the collapse of Block J, 45 Ma Tau Wai Road and a fatal fire at 111-113 Ma Tau Wai Road.

"I don't think the government has learned any lessons," Yum said.

Families of the collapse victims filed claims for compensation in January, saying it was caused by negligence and breach of duty by many parties.

These, they say, include the Building Authority, the building's owner Chak Oi-luen, principal tenant Cha Nam-yam and convicted repairman Chu Wai-wing, who was working on the ground floor when the building fell.

In his report delivered in 2011, Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu said no one should be held criminally responsible but he found fault with both the owner and buildings officials.

Chan recommended that a surveyor and a structural engineer should be present in preliminary investigations of potentially serious building complaints, instead of relying on a surveyor alone, as happened in To Kwa Wan.

This came after department surveyor Wan Chi-wai was questioned during the inquest by Chu's lawyer on whether he had misjudged the condition of the 55-year-old tenement.

The lawyer said the building was in a "very, very dilapidated state" before the repairman started work on the day of the collapse

The lawyer said the building was in a "very, very dilapidated state" before the repairman started work on the day of the collapse.

But Wan found in an inspection in November 2009 that the building did not pose an immediate danger.

Chan's suggestion was not adopted by the department, which quoted government experts saying joint inspection was not necessary in every case.

The department would not say whether officials who inspected the buildings were penalised after the collapse.

Yesterday, a department spokeswoman declined to say how many recommendations proposed by the government's experts and the department's working group had already been adopted and executed.

The collapsed building and adjacent ageing tenements are being redeveloped into two 30-storey residential blocks by the Urban Renewal Authority.