After 7.9 quake, future of highrises hangs in balance

  • teetering towers
- SANJEEV GIRI, Kathmandu

Apr 30, 2015-

“It was beyond imagination. I don’t know how I got through it,” said Bishnu Rijal, who lives on the fourth floor of Sun Rise Apartments, in Nakhhu, Lalitpur. He was recalling the moment when his building swung like a swing during the Great Quake on Saturday.

The 14-storey apartment building, according to Rijal, is now unfit to live in. “We have met with the builders and they have conveyed to us is that the building has insurance and we need not worry. But I don’t know what will happen next,” said Rijal.

Roshan Bardewa, a resident of Sun City Apartments in Pepsi Cola, Kathmandu, said the experience of getting confined inside a high-rise during the earthquake was horrifying. “Thank god we don’t have a huge damage here,” said Bardewa.

There are many people in Kathmandu Valley who have had to evacuate their high-rise homes and flee into an open place. An observation trip undertaken by the Post in almost a dozen apartments in Kathmandu Valley suggests that most of the high-rise buildings have sustained multiple cracks on their walls.  

The teetering high-rise apartments are also a source of anxiety for people whose homes lie in their immediate vicinity. Sunny Mahat, a resident of Dhapasi, Kathmandu, vented his frustration on Facebook. “This is supposed to be a 9-Richter scale resistant house but it almost crashed at 7.9. It is less than 100 metres from my home and is almost on the verge of collapse. It was illegally approved by the government and this puts many lives at risk if it breaks down,” Mahat wrote on his Facebook page. His home lies next to Park View Horizon, one of the most severely damaged apartment units in Kathmandu.

Many of the affected are not just confining themselves to venting on social media. At City Escape Apartments in Hattiban, Lalitpur, on Thursday, a group of 30 people had encircled the project developer, who was struggling to pacify them. The residents of City Escape were worried about finding a place to live in and were asking the developer to shift them to a safer location. But many, for now, are just thinking about renting a new place to live.

Experts still do not have enough information about the extent of the damage. “We will have to conduct a specific assessment in all the high risers to find out the details,” said Navin Devkota, senior division architect at the Ministry of Urban Development. According to him, cracked and damaged brick walls are a common phenomenon in reinforced concrete buildings that have been hit by a quake. “However, if there are structural damages and impacts on the pillar, the case might be serious.” The ministry has stated that the government will soon conduct assessments in the high risers in the Valley. Bijay Raj Bhandari, the chairman and managing director of CE Constructions, said that although assessments had not been conducted so far, most of the high-rise apartments seem to have suffered non-structural impacts. “This earthquake was unique, with both horizontal and vertical jolts occurring one after another. And this is one of the reasons for the severe damage in the high-risers,” Bhandari

said. He added that the government and independent consultant companies should conduct assessments of all the affected projects and recommend what must be done.  

But engineering seismologist Deepak Chaulagain says that the vertical-horizontal claim does not absolve the developer of their lack of foresight when they were building their high risers. “Every earthquake features both horizontal and vertical jolts. Besides, developers should have conducted seismic side-effect analyses to determine whether a high-rise apartment could have been built in certain locations. These tests, for the most part, were not been conducted. The apartments that remain standing may have complied with such procedures.”

Bhandari said the quake has caused a huge setback in the apartment business. “There are people still wanting to shift to individual homes. But it seems that there will be no takers for the high-rise units,” he said, adding that it will take a lot of time for buyers to think about opting for apartments again.


Published: 01-05-2015 11:36

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