Building felled by NZ quake poorly designed

Updated 11 December 2012
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Building felled by NZ quake poorly designed

SYDNEY: A six-story office building that collapsed and killed 115 people in New Zealand’s devastating earthquake last year was poorly designed by an inexperienced engineer, inadequately constructed and should never have been issued a building permit, a government report said yesterday.
The Canterbury Television (CTV) building crumbled to the ground during the 6.1-magnitude earthquake that rocked Christchurch on Feb. 22, 2011. The building’s collapse was responsible for nearly two-thirds of the 185 deaths from the quake.
Yesterday’s report was the final release from the New Zealand government-ordered commission that spent months investigating the buildings damaged in the quake. Findings the commission released in February concluded that the CTV building was made of weak columns and concrete and did not meet standards when it was built in 1986. The building’s designer contested those findings.
New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, said building failures were responsible for 175 of the 185 deaths from the quake.
“We owed it to them, their loved ones left behind, and those people badly injured in the earthquake, to find answers as to why some buildings failed so severely,” Key said in a statement.
The report found several deficiencies in the CTV building’s engineering design and said the city council should never have issued the building a permit because the design did not comply with the standards at the time. The commission also concluded that there were problems with the building’s construction.
The commission blamed the engineers from Alan Reay Consultants Ltd. for developing an inadequate and non-compliant design and city officials for not noticing the problems.
The report said the structural design was completed by engineer David Harding, who had no experience designing multistory buildings like the CTV and was “working beyond his competence.” Yet Harding never sought assistance from his boss, Alan Reay. The report blamed Reay for leaving Harding to work unsupervised, despite knowing that Harding lacked experience.
The report also found that Reay pressured city officials to approve the building despite them having some reservations about it.
Harding’s lawyer, Michael Kirkland, said neither he nor his client had read through the report so they couldn’t comment. Reay also declined to comment.
Mary-Anne Jackson, who fled the building seconds before it collapsed with a deafening boom, said she and other CTV workers had long felt unsafe in the building. She said it shook when trucks drove by and there were cracks in the walls. Jackson hopes Reay and others involved in the building’s design and construction will face criminal charges.
“I want justice and accountability,” Jackson told The Associated Press. “It’s just devastating and it just never goes away. It’s always there and I’ll take it to the grave with me.” The commission noted that the building had been issued a “green sticker” following a magnitude-7.0 earthquake in September 2010, signaling authorities had given it the thumbs-up for people to continue using it.
An investigation by the AP last year found that inspection checks routinely used across the world to verify the safety of buildings following earthquakes fail to account for how well those buildings will withstand future quakes.
The AP found that building occupants and public officials in Christchurch did not understand that a “green sticker” doesn’t mean the building has undergone a thorough analysis of its structural health, nor that it will stay intact during future quakes.
The commission’s report found that the CTV building was given a green sticker after being inspected by just three building officials, none of whom was an engineer. The commission recommended that in the future, only trained building safety evaluators be authorized to inspect buildings after earthquakes, and that government agencies should research how to account for aftershocks.
Maan Alkaisi, whose wife Maysoon Abbas died in the building’s collapse, praised the commission for its thorough investigation.
“Now we know that there were many design deficiencies in the CTV building and we know who was responsible for these design deficiencies and why,” Alkaisi told the AP. “I don’t want to see this happening again, so we have to make sure that the recommendation made by the royal commission is adopted, that much better building standard is adopted and much better engineering practice is also adopted.” Brian Kennedy, whose wife Faye died when the building fell, said the report had brought him a measure of closure and that he was not interested in punishing the engineers or construction team involved.
“I think (I’m) trying to look forward a little more positively now,” Kennedy told the AP. “Time heals a wee bit — not everything, but it makes it a little easier.”


Greece ‘turning a page’ as eurozone declares crisis over

Updated 37 min 49 sec ago
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Greece ‘turning a page’ as eurozone declares crisis over

  • The eurozone ministers’ agreement comes nearly a decade after Athens finances spun out of control, sparking three bailouts and threatening the country’s euro membership.
  • EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici: “The Greek crisis ends here tonight.”

ATHENS: Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday said the country was “turning a page” after eurozone ministers declared its crisis over as they granted Athens debt relief under a bailout exit strategy.
The eurozone ministers’ agreement comes nearly a decade after Athens finances spun out of control, sparking three bailouts and threatening the country’s euro membership.
“Yesterday we reached a historic agreement on Greece’s debt with the Eurogroup,” Tsipras told the country’s president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
“We are turning a page,” he said, adding that Greece had to remain on the path of reform.
Following the eurozone ministers’ hard-fought agreement declared earlier Friday, Greece is slated to leave its third financial rescue since 2010 on August 20.
“The Greek crisis ends here tonight,” said EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, after marathon talks in Luxembourg.
The deal was expected to be an easy one, but last-minute resistance by Germany — Greece’s long bailout nemesis and biggest creditor — dragged the talks on for six hours.
The ministers agreed to extend maturities by 10 years on major parts of its total debt obligations, a mountain that has reached close to double the country’s annual economic output.
They also agreed to disburse €15 billion ($17.5 billion) to ease Greece’s exit from the rescue program.
This would leave Greece with a hefty €24 billion safety cushion, officials said.
“The agreed debt relief is bigger than we had expected,” Citi European Economics said in a note.
“In particular, the 10-year extension of the EFSF loans’ maturity and most importantly the grace period on interest payments is a significant development,” they added.
“The Greek government is happy with the agreement,” Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said after the talks.
But “to make this worthwhile we have to make sure that the Greek people must quickly see concrete results... they need to feel the change in their own pockets,” he added.
The eight-year crisis toppled four governments and shrank the economy by 25 percent. Unemployment soared and still hovers over 20 percent, sending thousands of young educated Greeks abroad.
Optimism is tempered by Greece’s remaining fiscal obligations, which will demand serious discipline, observers say.
“This is a very tight program. A surplus of 3.5 percent to 2022 and 2.2 percent (on average) to 2060 is not easy at all,” Kostas Boukas, asset management director at Beta Securities, told Athens 9,84 radio.
“We’ll have to see if the pledges will be kept, especially as they depend on international developments as well,” he said.
Under pressure from its creditors, Greece has already agreed to slash pensions again in 2019, and reduce the tax-free income threshold for millions of people in 2020.
Further cuts will be made to maintain the 3.5-percent surplus, if necessary.
“It would be a terrible mistake to cultivate illusions that the end of the bailout means a return to normality,” said pro-opposition daily Ta Nea.
“What follows is tough oversight which no other country has experienced in a post-bailout period,” the daily said.
The European Commission has already specified that Greece will remain under fiscal supervision until it repays 75 percent of its loans.
Athens has received €273.7 billion in assistance since 2010, enabling it to avoid punishing borrowing rates on debt markets.
The International Monetary Fund, led by the tough-talking Christine Lagarde, welcomed the debt relief, but cited reservations about Greece’s obligations over the long term.
“In the medium term analysis there is no doubt in our minds that Greece will be able to reaccess the markets,” Lagarde said after the talks.
“As far as the longer term is concerned we have concerns,” she added.
The reform-pushing IMF played an active role in the two first Greek bailouts, but took only an observer role in the third in the belief that Greece’s debt pile was unsustainable in the long term.