I have just read the news item regarding the collapse of a driveway of a house at Fgura due to excavation works being carried out next door (October 30). Fortunately enough, no one was injured except for shock but the family are unable to live in their home of 12 years for fear that the entire building might collapse.

Swieqi and Ibrag have recently taken over from Sliema as one huge building site due to demolition of villas, terraced houses and other structures built over the past 30 years. These are being replaced by new buildings, hopefully sanctioned by Mepa, with garages at semi-basement level and three storeys above. In some instances it is evident, even to the layman's eye, that construction site administration is scant, haphazard or even non-existent with cracks appearing in adjacent homes and water seepage in neighbouring basements and garages after even a few drops of rain. One shudders to think what might the consequences be if there is a repetition of the September 2003 downpour and floods. Neighbouring families have also to put up for lengthy periods of time with the continuous hassle of dust, noise at all times, haphazard parking of heavy vehicles, swaying tower cranes and the cavalier attitude, to say the least, of construction workers.

I am glad to note that a memo has been submitted to Cabinet by the Building Industry Consultative Committee regarding an excavation policy framework. Such a framework should include the proviso that all building sites have a permanent notice affixed at an accessible and easy-to-read level listing the names, addresses and contact telephone numbers of the owner/developer, supervising architect, building contractor carrying out the works, and Mepa duty officer (if such a post exists!) so that they can be contacted 24/7 should suspicious cracks appear or water seepage occur in adjacent houses - so that impending tragedies can be averted. Another interesting point is whether such building sites are covered by third party liability insurance to make good for damages inflicted on neighbouring houses.

In the context of the Fgura collapse, it would be illuminating to know what was the supervising architect's advice regarding the course of urgent remedial action to be undertaken by the owner and contractor to counteract the consequences of three storeys of soil beneath the house.

As things stand, many building sites are accidents waiting to happen if existing regulations and guidelines are not implemented and, most important of all, enforced at all times.

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