“Rain and terrorism”: Why do residential buildings collapse in Aleppo
Wednesday’s death toll of the collapsed building in the northern city of Aleppo reached 13, including seven women and five children, while a child and a woman were rescued from under the rubble as the city’s local council attributes the collapse of the five-story building to the lack of engineering and safety standards.
The head of the Aleppo City Council, Ma’ad Madlaji, told the state-run news agency (SANA) on Wednesday that the collapsed building of the al-Ferdous neighborhood southeast of Aleppo is located in an area outside the authorized urban area, which was “destroyed as a result of terrorism.”
“The building is in an unorganized area destroyed by terrorism, and it is built without architecture study, contrary to the public safety,” Madlaji told SANA.
On the other hand, the Governor of Aleppo, Hussain Diab, on Thursday ordered the formation of a committee of technicians from the General Secretariat of Aleppo Governorate, the City Council, the Engineers Syndicate, and Technical Services to investigate the collapsed building, indicate the reasons for its collapse, determine its age, and submit the report within 24 hours.
The governor also directed the evacuation of neighboring buildings for fear of their collapse and to secure alternative housing in the Hanano area for those affected, including the owners of the destroyed building and neighboring buildings.
Rain and “terrorist acts,” collapses continue
Housing collapses like the al-Ferdous neighborhood’s building, and the fall of casualties have not been the first since the Syrian regime forces took control of the city in late 2016 from opposition factions.
More than 30 people died in the collapse of several buildings in Aleppo, according to the official statistics of each incident.
In August 2020, a woman died, and a person was injured when a residential building collapsed in al-Saliheen neighborhood in Aleppo.
At the time, Madlaji, head of the city council, justified the incident in the same way and said that the building was illegal and was built on agricultural land and that it was damaged as a result of “terrorist attacks.”
In December of the same year, the death toll from the collapse of a building in the Maadi neighborhood reached 12 people, including a child and two women, and three people were injured.
Madlaji attributed the cause of the collapse due to “the heavy rain that fell in the area,” adding that “the building is violating, dilapidated, and built on agricultural land in a random housing area that suffered great damage during the unjust war,” as he described.
In February 2019, 11 civilians died as a result of the collapse of an apartment building in the Salah al-Din area of Aleppo. Madlaji said the causes of the building’s collapse were due to the “cracked construction as a result of the terrorist attacks that the region witnessed years ago.”
Madlaji added that the building is in violation, and safety standards and engineering conditions were not observed during its construction, in addition to the heavy rain that fell and accelerated its fall.
Most of the collapsed buildings are located in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo due to the cracking and collapse of parts of them after the heavy bombardment they received from the regime forces and Russia when they were under the control of the opposition, which amounted to the use of Russian concussion weapons, barrel bombs and vacuum missiles from the Syrian warplanes.
On Thursday, the deputy head of Aleppo City Council, Ahmed Rahmani, warned in an interview with the government al-Baath newspaper that one-third of Aleppo’s area is an unplanned area full of residential violations, adding that there are more than 10200 residential buildings violating the engineering and safety standards in this area.
Since February 2019, the Aleppo governorate has evicted more than 4000 families living in about 10000 buildings, many of which are in ruins, so that the eviction takes place with the provision of alternative housing for these families, pending the rehabilitation of their homes and the demolition of what cannot be maintained due to its high danger.
According to a report by the UN Institute for Research and Training (UNITAR) released in 2019, Aleppo governorate witnessed the largest percentage of destruction in Syria, with 4773 completely destroyed buildings, 14,680 severely damaged, and 16,269 partially destroyed, bringing the total of damaged buildings to 35,722.
Corruption hanged on war “hatstand”
Criticisms and demands to hold officials and negligent people accountable through social media increase after each incident of a building collapse, and it is not enough to attribute the causes to the war in the neighborhoods of the city of Aleppo, especially the eastern ones.
Following the al-Ferdous neighborhood’s collapse, Redha al-Basha, the correspondent of the pro-regime al-Mayadeen TV channel, published on his Facebook page a statistic showing that from 2018 until 2022, about 24 buildings have collapsed in Aleppo, leaving 47 people dead and 22 others wounded, calling for those responsible to be held accountable.
While the reasons for the collapse of most of the previous buildings were explained by officials as “terrorist attacks,” one of the victims’ families of al-Ferdous neighborhood explained to al-Khabar TV website that the collapsed building was a new one that was built 14 months ago almost four years since the regime forces took control of the neighborhood, such information was confirmed by Madlaji, the head of the Aleppo City Council.
In general, no building is being built without the knowledge of the municipality of Aleppo governorate, as the buildings are generally classified in Syria into two categories: the first is licensed, and the second is random in unplanned areas and outside the urban planning.
Engineers are responsible for buildings within the licensed category if the cause of the collapse was natural factors. As for random buildings (unlicensed), the responsibility rests with the building owner.
Madlaji admitted that the al-Ferdous building was previously examined by the municipal council, and it was “sealed with red wax” and classified as a non-habitable building shortly after its construction, but these buildings are not continuously monitored, according to his interview with al-Madina FM radio on Thursday.
Syria ranked penultimate (178) with 13 points, according to the Transparency International report for the year 2021, which monitors the level of corruption among countries.
The Transparency Index is based on a survey and evaluation of specialized experts, and it monitors the extent of bribery, embezzlement, and nepotism in the concerned countries, and also monitors whether there are anti-corruption laws and whether they are applied or not.
There are still many damaged buildings adjacent to collapsed buildings in the popular neighborhood, which is one of the old neighborhoods in Aleppo, as it contains a school and al-Ferdous Mosque, which was built during the Ayyubid Era.
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