Three years after a wall collapsed in their apartment building, forcing the Walker family to evacuate, they have finally been able to return home.
On June 13, 2019, the wall of an apartment building adjacent to a construction site in Mimosa Street, Guardamangia collapsed, leaving 14 families out on the street with no possessions.
Janet Zahra Walker, who inadvertently became the face of public anger with construction carelessness, told Times of Malta that the family was settling in and relieved that the ordeal was finally over.
“We are finally back home. We spent three years away, give or take three weeks, but it’s good to be back,” she said.
In 2019, five incidents of building collapses dogged the construction industry as, in each case, the building neighboured an active construction site.
The experience was not easy at all, on any one of us, we all were burdened by it- Janet Zahra Walker
The government responded by imposing a two-week moratorium on excavation and demolition work and introducing new construction rules.
In March 2020, mother-of-two Miriam Pace died under the rubble of her home as it collapsed into an adjacent construction site.
Despite the ordeal, Zahra Walker said that by sticking together – and sticking to their guns – the family had persevered through the adversity.
“The experience was not easy at all, on any one of us, we all were burdened by it,” she said.
“But I think the fact that I was vocal about it helped. I took every opportunity to speak publicly about what happened to us and I remain an active person because I sincerely believe that, when you are honest about your life and what is happening to you, then you can always find a solution.”
After some protracted toing and froing, the family was able to get compensation from the owners of the adjacent building site and make the necessary repairs to the home.
€14,000 compensation for damage
“We were lucky that we never went to court but our lawyer, Mario Mifsud was in constant contact with them and we were able to eventually come to an agreement,” Zahra Walker said.
The Walker family got some €14,000 in compensation for the damage done to the home as well as some additional money for the expenses racked up after having to abruptly leave the home with no possessions.
“When we had to leave, we were out on the street with nothing, literally just the clothes on our backs,” she continued.
“So, after the dust settled, we realised we had to dip into our pockets to buy things, primarily clothes and items you need just to continue living a decent life.
“I work, my sister works but this was an unnecessary expense at the time. There were also my mother and my niece to think about, we couldn’t just leave them with nothing either.”
Once they were relocated to another apartment provided by the Housing Authority, the family also needed to spend more to purchase things like pots and pans.
However, while the compensation covered the structural damage and moving expenses, it did not quite cater for all the things that needed attention in the Guardamangia home.
Due to so much time having passed before the parties came to an agreement, the food in the Walkers’ kitchen was not removed and eventually rotted and permeated the furniture.
“We are a typical Maltese family and we had enough food to feed a small army,” she said.
“Unfortunately, it had all rotted and stank up all the furniture, so we had no choice but to replace it.”
Things left pending for a long time
Nonetheless, Zahra Walker says she is happy with the resolution and can now put this chapter of her life behind her.
“I mean, I’m not exactly happy that I had to dip into my funds for a new kitchen but, on the other hand, I think it was getting a little old and I would have replaced it eventually. I just did it a little sooner than I expected,” she said.
“But, overall, we are happy with the outcome. The fact that we didn’t end up in court I think was good.
“What I’d like to see improved is that we were left pending for such a long time. I think that could have been handled differently and maybe we could have saved more of our things.”
That being said, she’s happy to keep moving forward through the experience.
“I never obscured anything and I’ve always been honest about what we were going through,” she said.
“But now I’m just enjoying whatever comes our way. I got married last August and I’m now a Zahra Walker.
“We look forward to our future and whatever it pleases the Lord to send our way.”