Caroline and Winston Micallef moved back into their Guardamangia home last week, more than two years after they witnessed their house collapse before them in the dead of night.
The tragic incident happened on April 24, 2019, just after 10pm. On that fateful night, they were going to bed when Caroline heard a loud, rumbling noise coming from within the walls of their apartment.
“Winston was already in bed and I woke him up hurriedly,” Caroline recalled.
“As I was telling him about it, a second, even bigger and scarier noise roared throughout the entire building. That is when we started to see huge cracks opening up in the walls.”
They rushed out of the bedroom and out of the apartment.
“Even though we were witnessing everything happen before us and even though it was clear that something was terribly wrong we still did not believe the house was about to collapse,” she said.
But they sensed it was not safe to stay inside.
They picked up their 15-year-old, blind dog, the house keys and Caroline’s phone and rushed down the stairs, out of the building and into the middle of the road in their pyjamas. In a few minutes, they were joined by all the other neighbours. “Had we decided to stay inside, it would have been the end for us,” Caroline said.
The most unbelievable thing happened just 10 minutes later, when Caroline, Winston and their neighbours watched the building give way, fall apart and come crashing down to the ground in a terrifying growl.
“It all happened in a few seconds... we barely had time to look at it come down. One moment it was there, the next it was gone,” she said.
As the huge cloud of dust and debris cleared, the couple and the neighbours looked on in utter disbelief at what was their home a few seconds earlier.
“You look at your house falling down and your life comes down with it,” Caroline said.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Winston agreed, “I couldn’t believe how I was just in bed up there 10 minutes ago and then the bed was down here, buried under the rubble.”
Everyone survived the incident that night and Caroline and Winston feel incredibly lucky but they also lost all their belongings.
I miss the wedding rings the most.
“I miss the wedding rings the most... we never take them off except when we go to bed,” she said.
“That night, we had already taken them off and they came down with the house. We never found them. I know that the rings are irrelevant as the marriage is in our love and we love each other very much but we still miss the rings. They reminded us of our wedding day.”
The trauma took a toll on their well-being and the following months were incredibly challenging.
“I used to call Winston regularly, just to hear his voice because I developed a constant fear that something was about to happen to us,” Caroline admitted.
“I used to wake up screaming in the middle of the night, banging on furniture to vent my anger and pain. We will have to live with the trauma forever. Only death will take it away.”
The apartment block has been reconstructed according to its original plans and the couple went into a new, empty apartment, as happened years ago after they got married. And now, just like when they were newlyweds, they have started refurbishing and redecorating their home.
“We cannot put into words how excited we are. It is so wonderful to be back home,” they said.
“We’re two lovers, back on our path and determined to build a beautiful future,” they agreed.
This incident was the first of a series of similar tragic events in which buildings collapsed, partly or completely, next to construction sites.
On June 8 that same year, an apartment block in Mellieħa partially collapsed, leaving a 77-year-old woman trapped inside. She was rescued from the rubble.
Just five days later, residents in a block just around the corner from where Caroline and Winston live had to rush out of their homes when an entire wall on the first floor collapsed.
Then, on March 2 last year, the home of Miriam Pace in Ħamrun collapsed while she was inside, burying her under the rubble.
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