Thursday, July 16, 2015


At least five building workers died, and a further six were injured in a scaffolding collapse at a building site in downtown Maputo on Tuesday afternoon.The building where the collapse occurred is owned by the JAT group, and is intended to house the future offices of the National Social Security Institute (INSS). It is 17 storeys high, and most of those who fell to the ground were working at a height of over 30 metres.When the spokesperson for the fire brigade, David Cumbane, spoke to AIM in the early evening he could confirm three deaths – but at the stage the firemen and other rescue workers were still removing the dead and injured from the debris. Before the fire brigade arrived, it was the construction workers themselves who began the rescue operations, trying to save the lives of their colleagues trapped under the scaffolding. AIM noted that some of the building workers lacked basic protective clothing. They had no helmets, goggles or boots, which should be routinely supplied by any contractor on a building site. One worker, speaking to AIM on conditions of anonymity, said that the scaffolding collapsed because of a defect in assembling it. He claimed it was not the first time that an accident of this sort had happened. “The same thing happened last year”, he said, “but that time we were lucky because nobody died”. This worker complained to reporters of the lack of safety equipment on the site.“There’s no safety gear”, he protested. “We’re working under inhuman conditions. They treat us as if we were slaves. There are even people on the sire working in flip-flops”. The workers also complain of a lack of basic washing and sanitation facilities. Immediately it became aware of the collapse, the government sent a team headed by Labour Minister Vitoria Diogo to the site to investigate the causes of the accident. She ordered that all work on the site be embargoed until the conclusion of the investigations.“This is a very serious situation involving the loss of human lives”, said Diogo. “As a government, we shall do all in our power to find out what caused this accident. Work on this scale demands great attention and great responsibility from the contractors”. The contractor, according to a release from the Labour Ministry, is the Portuguese building company Britalar, which became notorious for its shoddy work on rehabilitating one of Maputo’s main thoroughfares, Julius Nyerere Avenue. Britalar headed the consortium hired to repair the road. The avenue was severely damaged in the floods of 2000 which opened a massive crater at the northern end of the avenue. Rehabilitating the avenue was budgeted at US$12.5 million, provided by the World Bank and by Maputo Municipal council's own funds.Britalar should have delivered the rebuilt road to the City Council in February 2014. But the work ran months behind schedule. Worse still, cracks began to appear in the newly laid asphalt, and even to untrained eyes it was clear that Britalar's work had been shoddy.Samples of the materials used by Britalar were collected and sent to three laboratories, two in Mozambique and one in Portugal. All the laboratories agreed that the road had started to crumble away because of the poor quality of the materials.The contract was eventually cancelled, and the Britalar-led consortium was ordered to repay the Municipal Council a million dollars.

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