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.”


Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

Updated 22 April 2018
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Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

  • The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban.
  • The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims.

WASHINGTON: The first big showdown at the US Supreme Court over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies is set for Wednesday when the justices hear a challenge to the lawfulness of his travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.
The case represents a test of the limits of presidential power. Trump’s policy, announced in September, blocks entry into the US of most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Chad previously was on the list but Trump lifted those restrictions on April 10.
The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban or any other major Trump immigration policy, including his move to rescind protections for young immigrants sometimes called Dreamers brought into the US illegally as children. It has previously acted on Trump requests to undo lower court orders blocking those two policies, siding with him on the travel ban and opposing him on the Dreamers. Trump’s immigration policies — also including actions taken against states and cities that protect illegal immigrants, intensified deportation efforts and limits on legal immigration — have been among his most contentious. 
The conservative-majority Supreme Court is due to hear arguments on Wednesday on the third version of a travel ban policy Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January 2017, and issue a ruling by the end of June. 
The lead challenger is the state of Hawaii, which argues the ban violates federal immigration law and the US Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over another.
“Right now, the travel ban is keeping families apart. It is degrading our values by subjecting a specific set of people to be denigrated and marginalized,” Hawaii Lt. Governor Doug Chin said in an interview.
The Supreme Court on Dec. 4 signaled it may lean toward backing Trump when it granted the administration’s request to let the ban go into full effect while legal challenges played out.
In another immigration-related case, the justices on April 17 invalidated a provision in a US law requiring deportation of immigrants convicted of certain crimes of violence. Trump’s administration and the prior Obama administration had defended the provision.
'Politically correct'
Trump has said the travel ban is needed to protect the US from terrorism by militants. Just before the latest ban was announced, Trump wrote on Twitter that the restrictions “should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly that would not be politically correct!“
The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims, pressing that point in lower courts with some success by citing statements he made as a candidate and as president. As a candidate, Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
The Justice Department argues Trump’s statements as a candidate carry no weight because he was not yet president. The policy’s challengers also point to views he has expressed as president, including his retweets in November of anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British political figure.
In a court filing last week, US Solicitor General Noel Francisco, representing Trump in court, said those retweets “do not address the meaning” of the travel ban policy.
Francisco cited Trump statements complimentary toward Muslims and Islam, including in a May 2017 speech in Saudi Arabia.
In defending the ban, the administration has pointed to a waiver provision allowing people from targeted countries to seek entry if they meet certain criteria. The State Department said that as of last month 375 waivers to the travel ban had been granted since the policy went into effect on Dec 8.