In different parts of Syria, buildings are suffering the side effects of the battles they witnessed. The returnees, people who chose to go back to their homes in the area’s they were forced to leave, are faced with fear that centralizes on the liability of these buildings, their readiness to accommodate people and their potential collapse.
The crush down of a five-story building in Maysaloun neighborhood, in eastern Aleppo, led to the death of a group of residents, according to the Ministry of Interior under the Syrian regime’s government on 5 March.
The building’s fall is attributed to its disintegration, for being a direct target for military aircraft when the opposition was in control of the area in 2016.
The official numbers by the Syrian regime’s government show that the battles in the neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo inflicted damage onto 70% of the buildings; other government reports confirmed that 30% of the buildings have major damage and need to be rehabilitated before receiving residents.
“Al-Watan,” local newspaper, quoted sources in Aleppo City Local Council who said that Head of the Council, Mohammad Ayman al-Halak, has, through an official letter, given orders to all the neighborhoods’ mayors about the necessity to inform the Services Directorate, concerned with inhabited building and the ones at risk of collapse due to the damage, which thus propose a threat to the lives of their residents, so the Directorate would undertake the needed proceedings as to prevent possible disasters.
The Syrian opposition left Aleppo’s neighborhoods at the end of 2016, but most of the buildings were under direct or indirect shock due to intensified shelling, which included Russian concussion weapons, barrel bombs and military aircraft rockets.
The Reconstruction Committee: 50% of the Buildings Are Threatened
An engineer from the city of Aleppo, whishes to stay anonymous, told Enab Baladi that some buildings crashed down after people had returned to house them, the reason why the Reconstruction Committee, under the UN Development Programme, has prohibited people from going back to their homes before they are examined and checked.
The Reconstruction Committee in the city of Aleppo started taking actual steps in mid-2017, seeking to evaluate the damage that befell the buildings in the neighborhoods of eastern Aleppo.
The buildings are classified within a range that starts with the less damaged to end with the most damaged buildings, according to the engineer. The committee has chosen three colors to symbolize the degree of decadence ـــــ Red stands for the buildings that require simple restoration operations, yellow stands for partially destroyed buildings, and green stands for the buildings that either has major damage or at the verge of collapse.
Fifty percent of the buildings that the Committee have examined are at risk of crushing down. According to the engineer, 90% of the buildings that are supposed to be covered by the Committee have been evaluated in the eastern neighborhoods of the city of Aleppo.
“UND” Programme has offered about 40 million Syrian pounds to the city’s “Engineers Syndicate,” whose experts are undertaking intensified tours to assess the size of the real-estates’ damage.
According to the engineer, engineering reports are made about the buildings and other assets that have a simple or medium degree of damage to be presented to the UN body involved in the work of the Committee, according to which it offers funding for restoration operations through local contractors. As for the entirely damaged buildings, they are only pointed out without additional details and without specifying the entity that might reconstruct them.
Buildings’ Damage Causes
Mortar shells, missiles, concussion bombs and barrel bombs have played the major rule in weakening and fracturing both the licensed and unauthorized buildings alike, for explosions and ensuing pressure affect the building in their direct range, which form a circle, the radius of which is over 500 meters, according the consultant architect Mazhar Sharbaji, the former head of the Engineers Department in rural Damascus.
He explained that most of these buildings are prepared to cope with a number of natural factors, such as seismic activity, wind and other elements; however, they are not initiated as to receive unnatural or guided shocks, similar to these resulting from rockets and concussion bombs, pointing out that rockets’ power is sometimes over an earthquake’s measuring 6 on the Richter scale.
According to Sharbaji, the shocks that affect the building’s “constructive structure” (the foundations, the columns and bridges) decrease the buildings ability to resist. If any of these three basic parts is affected, the building becomes liable to collapse at any moment and due to the size of damage.
The buildings in Syria are generally categorized in two ways: the first are licensed and the other are unauthorized. The concerned engineers, usually, hold responsibility for the licensed buildings, if their collapse was due to natural factors. As for the unauthorized buildings, the building’s owner or the involved persons are the ones to be held accountable.
Sharbaji said that each building has its own identity that includes its license and the names of the engineers that worked to construct it; the identity has a limited time.
He also explained that this process is followed under normal conditions, but, in wars time, buildings suffer shocks they are not prepared to resist, which weakens their foundations and lead to their collapse in many circumstances.
Buildings at Risk of Collapse Evaluation Methods
Sharbaji believes that both the directly and indirectly socked buildings must be evaluated by a team of specialized engineers and technicians. If the damage has reached the columns carrying the buildings, they must be evaluated from zero point, in addition to an accurate examination of the constructive structure’s cement.
The soil carrying the building might also get affected by shelling without a direct harm to the building itself, leading to the crush down of the building, for the foundations would then be based on a soft soil that cannot bear the weight of the building.
The damage caused by explosive materials and bombs are divided into two types according to Sharbaji. The first is the damages that a naked eye observes and the second that are hidden. The cracks and collapsed parts are estimated by a technical committee in different cases, and if the “constructive structure” is fundamentally damaged, it is better to eradicate the building for its rehabilitation cost would definitely exceed that of rebuilding it anew. In case of damage in a certain side of the building, a technical report is issued as to rehabilitate the building, on a condition that the constructive structure is not this damaged part.
Cracked walls and ceiling gaps are restored in return for relatively little amount of money because they do not affect the building directly.
The evaluation process begins with searching for indicators, such as cracks, soil damage, slopes, pressures; then the experts examine the whole “constructive structure”. After the observatory examination, columns and cement are examined via special device called the “Hammer” which measures the cement’s resistance and issues a report about the columns’ preparedness and status.
The Reconstruction File
Economic experts estimate the costs of the reconstruction process in Syria unevenly and unclearly due to the infrastructure’s damage that resulted from battles and shelling and the difficulty to reach the areas that are not yet stable.
The European Union has published a report in which it mentioned that the reconstruction process’ costs would reach 200 million dollars. Some European States have stipulated that a political transition shall happen if they are requested to participate in the process.
Staffan De Mistura, UN’s special envoy to Syria, in one of his speeches in the Security Council, last December, said that the costs of the reconstruction of the buildings which their infrastructure has been entirely destroyed in Syria will reach about 250 million dollars.