Updated 11.30am

Families living in a block of apartments in Mimosa Street, Ħamrun, were evacuated on Thursday morning after a wall adjacent to a building site collapsed.

The incident happened shortly before 8am. The five apartments housed 14 adults and two children.

Some of them could be seen with tears in their eyes as they surveyed the damage, evidently shocked by the fracas and their sudden evacuation. One said her daughter's holy communion is due on Sunday and she worried she could not get to the dress inside. 

Others angrily protested that they had expressed concerns that this would happen, but been assured that the wall was safe (See video below). The residents said they had even engaged a private architect who had also warned them of danger.

Resident Janet Walker, 44, said she had filed multiple reports about the dangers of the construction next door. 

The architect involved said works have been ongoing for two months and proper procedures had been followed. 

No one was injured. The adjacent construction project plans the construction of a basement garage, two shops at ground level, 15 overlying apartments and two penthouses.

Malta Developers' Association president Sandro Chetcuti was seen on site shortly after the incident.

The association in a statement later said it was shocked by what had happened.

"It is obvious that excavation works are being undertaken on sites without thorough investigations on the structural situation of party walls that are adjacent to proposed works and that the structural stability of such party walls cannot be taken for granted," it said. 

It said something must be urgently done about this issue.

"In the light of such incidents, MDA will support any action taken by government on excavation works adjacent to existing buildings in order to safeguard public safety.

"The authorities should urgently appoint a steering committee to draw up regulations in the case of all sites where buildings with party walls are to be demolished and replaced. These regulations will make mandatory the investigations required on the structural stability of existing buildings and the drawing up of method statements on how they will be safeguarded," the MDA said.  

The incident comes less than a week after a three-storey block adjacent to a construction site collapsed in Mellieħa, slightly injuring a woman who was trapped in the rubble.

And another Guardamanġa building collapsed last month, in an incident which shocked neighbourhood residents but resulted in no injuries.

The prime minister is due to hold a previously-arranged meeting with representatives of the construction industry later on Thursday.

Immediate action to define responsibilities - PS

Parliamentary Secretary Chris Agius told the Times of Malta that solving the piecemeal approach to regulation of the industry was the key, stressing that steps were already under way to set up the Malta Building and Construction Authority, with the relevant studies being put together by architect Robert Musumeci.

Mr Agius said the authority would be up and running "not later than year end".

He said, however, that there was no time to waste and that as an immediate measure, responsibilities for projects had to be clearly defined.

"The law already makes it very clear who is responsible for what, but it is obviously not enough," he said, adding that the momentum of the sector had put pressure on the regulators.

"It is all a matter of resources. What the Building Regulation Office had to deal with three years ago is not what it is facing now, with the number of projects going up so dramatically." 

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