Shaking flats in To Kwa Wan halt MTR construction
Lo Wei, Clifford Lo and Joyce Ng
Excavation work at a To Kwa Wan railway construction site has been suspended after more than 50 residents were evacuated because of reports that nearby buildings were shaking.
The residents of four blocks in Maidstone Road were allowed to return two hours later after their homes were declared safe. But work on the MTR's Ma Tau Wai station remained suspended.
Florence Lai Fung-kan, a tenant of 67 Maidstone Road, called the police in the morning when the shaking woke her up. "I thought I was feeling dizzy," she said. "Then I saw my hanging lights … shaking mildly. I thought it was an earthquake."
Fire officers evacuated residents from 65 to 71 Maidstone Road, all five- to six-storey tenements over 40 years old, and police closed a section of the road.
The four blocks are a minute's walk from the planned station on Ma Tau Wai Road, part of the MTR's Sha Tin to Central Link. The Buildings Department is checking whether the rail works caused the vibrations.
Workers were building diaphragm walls - in which mortar is injected into excavations - 30 metres below ground, an MTR spokeswoman said.
Greg Wong Chak-yan, an engineer familiar with rail works, said such walls were used to prevent ground subsidence or soil slippage. The work would "inevitably" cause vibrations, he said.
The construction site is about 900 metres from the site of a building collapse that killed four people in 2010.
Lai, who has lived in her fifth-floor flat for more than 20 years, said it was the first time she had felt such shaking.
"I'm not afraid [the building] will collapse. We have maintenance done every 10 years. The building was inspected just last year," she said.
A teenage tenant living in another fifth-floor flat said he also felt the vibrations. "Water was moving in the fish tank. My computer desk shook and a chandelier was vibrating," he said.
Work on the station began at the end of last year. It is expected to be in use in 2018. The MTR spokeswoman said devices monitoring building safety near the site did not detect any problems.
The Buildings Department later confirmed that the blocks were structurally safe, and that it had advised the MTR Corporation to suspend works for the time being.
The Highways Department will check whether the shaking was caused by the rail works.
A buildings officer told the press that equipment would be installed inside the blocks for closer monitoring.
Wong said the old buildings should be braced to reduce the impact, and the foundations could be strengthened.