City Hall stops excavation for twin 50-storey condos

Posted on April 10, 2012

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There was a loud crash past 1 p.m., then the second floor of the house tilted.

“My nephews thought there was an earthquake because the house moved,” said 29-year-old house renter Jonah Pacheco in Cebuano.

The two boys, an uncle and a teenage neighbor, were lucky to get out alive.

A meter away, a retention wall collapsed in the excavation site for a twin 50-story condominium project of Taft Property in barangay Cogon Ramos, Cebu City.

Eight other houses of light materials near the edge of the excavation pit also collapsed. No one was injured as most of the occupants were out at work.

The Office of the Building Official (OBO) under the Cebu City mayor’s office immediately issued a cease-and-desist order stopping excavation work until safety measures are in place and an investigation is made.

Cebu City Administrator Jose Marie Poblete said the order was issued against Taft Property Venture Development Corp. whose management promised to pay for the damaged houses.

Poblete, who is a civil engineer and lawyer, said the “weight” and “strength” of the “retaining wall” may have been inadequate.

The excavation, part of the foundation of the tower condominiums, appear deep enough to fit a three-story building at 30 meters tall and 15 meters wide.

Lawyer Vincent Tomaneng, Taft Property spokesman, said the company will undertake “corrective measures” and send experts to prevent further damage. He identified the contractor for the excavation work as ASDEC Corp., a Manila-based firm.

“We are doing everything we can. We will take care of the families affected. . . We will shoulder the necessary expenses,” said the lawyer.

“We conducted a soil test before we did the excavation.”

The twin condominium towers called Horizons 101 is designed to be the tallest commercial building in Cebu City when completed, even higher than the Crown Regency hotel a few blocks away.

The concrete wall was a “slope protection structure.”

Cogon-Central Ramos barangay captain Omar Durano said 20 affected families in eight houses in the Dela Rama Compound near the excavation site were relocated to pension houses in Cebu City paid for by Taft Property. The houses were about one meter away from the excavation wall that crumbled.

Sitio Sta. Teresita has about 1,500 residents and is the biggest sitio in the barangay, said Durano.

Other residents living within 15 meters from the excavation wall have to move out as a preventive measure, said Alvin Santillan, head of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.

A cordon was already set up around the site when Cebu Daily News visited.

“May’ gani naa ko sa gawas (Good thing I was outside the house.),” said Pacheco, who rents a two-story house beside the wall.

Pacheco said that she’s lived in the house in sitio Sta. Teresita for more than 20 years.

She was chatting with neighbors in a sari-sari store three meters from the house when the wall collapsed.
Pacheco recalled hearing a loud crash.

Her elder brother Jade and her two visiting nephews aged 17 and 9 together with an 11-year-old neighbor were watching television in the bedroom on the second floor.

The boys quickly locked the bedroom door and hid under the table. Jade, 37, later led them out to safety.

“They panicked. I was worried because the appliances were left on. I told my brother to turn off the electric switch,” Pacheco said.

The house is still standing but appears tilted.

When the second floor slanted, Pacheco said her washing machine and gas stove were thrown down the pit.

The house renter said she belatedly noticed cracks in their concrete floor last February, something she linked to the excavation work in sitio Teresita, which started August last year.

She said she didn’t immediately notice the cracks because the floor was covered with a carpet.

Pacheco said the family complained to Taft Property about the cracks and the company repaired them.

Excavation work at the site went on 24 hours a day, a noisy operation that would make her house shake, said Pacheco and several neighbors.

“Naanad nalang mi (We just got used to it),” Pacheco said.

“Nakuyawan pud mi pero kumpiyansa lang (We got scared but we were just complacent about).” /Rhea Ruth V. Rosell, Correspondent

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