Hong Kong report points to drilling as cause of collapse of old block in police station compound

Buildings Department says it is suing two contractors involved in the project, Gammon Construction and Stonewest, as well as a Gammon engineer

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 11:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 June, 2017, 3:38pm

Holes drilled to reinforce a wall of an old block in the 153-year-old former Central police station compound instead led to its collapse, according to a brief six-page government report into the incident released on Wednesday.

The Buildings Department said it was suing two contractors involved in the project, Gammon Construction and Stonewest (HK), as well as a Gammon engineer. The parties were accused of violating the Buildings Ordinance by deviating from an approved work plan or carrying out building works in a manner likely to cause a risk of injury or damage.

The case is scheduled to be heard in Eastern Court on July 6.

Holes blamed in historic Hong Kong police station wall collapse

But critics said the report was too short and asked if there had been a cover-up.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan said she found the department’s “rough and simple” report “unacceptable”. “It took the department a full year to produce a six-page report,” Chan said in a statement.

Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui Chi-fung, also a Central and Western district councillor, shared this view and asked if only one or two people should be held responsible.

He questioned if the Antiquities and Monuments Office, the Development Bureau or any architects or surveyors should also bear responsibility. “We don’t know if we can still trust the contractors and whether buildings in the police station complex are safe,” he said.

The report attributed the collapse to “hollowing out multiple pockets in brick piers and brick walls for the installation of steel members for the timber floor strengthening works”.

The department said drilling weakened the bearing area, leading to the collapse of internal brick pillars and in turn the wall.

Collapsed building at 150-year-old former Central Police Station will ‘inevitably’ lose heritage value with restoration project, Jockey Club says

The findings more or less agreed with an earlier investigation report by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which is in charge of the HK$1.8 billion revitalisation project.

The Jockey Club said: “The club takes the findings of the investigation very seriously and will review these findings carefully.”

In a statement, Gammon Construction said it noted the release of the Buildings Department’s investigation report and was studying it.

“Gammon and its representatives have discharged their duties as management contractor on the project both in a professional manner and in strict compliance with its obligations, statutory or otherwise, under the scrutiny of relevant professionals and official bodies.

“As the matter is now the subject of legal proceedings, it is inappropriate for the company to make any comment.”

Stonewest could not be reached for comment.

The Central Police Station compound comprises three groups of buildings, including the former Central magistracy and Victoria prison in addition to the police station. They were declared monuments in 1995.

Revitalisation work started in 2011 and had been scheduled for completion last year but for the collapse in May 2016 .