Fears of more old buildings collapsing

Amid lack of knowledge about regular maintenance

(File photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — Following Tuesday’s collapse of a building in Amman’s Jabal Luweibdeh, Omar Al-Faouri, the neighborhood’s nominal head (mukhtar) said that “in addition to the fact that the affected building was truly an old one, internal remodeling works were taking place on the ground floor, which may be the cause of the collapse”.اضافة اعلان

The four-floor residential building in this middle-class neighborhood collapsed, killing nine people, so far, and wounding eight others, officials said. Rescue work continued on Wednesday to find an unspecified number of trapped residents.

Faouri said that he had never received complaints about the state of the old buildings in the area, adding that “Luweibdeh’s residents always seek to keep the beauty of the area’s old-fashioned building style without conducting any major works that might harm the infrastructure”.

Yet, according to Faouri, people are given permits to build new buildings or add floors to old building, and “maintenance works are done only by those who can afford them, since there are no bodies that can fund such works.”

Bashar Tarawneh, member of the Jordan Engineers Association (JEA) Council, and head of the civil engineering division, told Jordan News that “licensing the construction of any building, or changing elements in an existing building requires a study and design by an engineering office, which in turn refers them to the JEA for approval”.

“Unfortunately, people sometimes act on their own, and effect changes and maintenance inside buildings without consulting an engineering office,” he noted.

Tarawneh added that “following Jabal Al-Jofeh’s building collapse in 2017, the Department of Statistics issued a study that same year showing that around 20 percent of buildings in Jordan have passed their projected lifespans, being more than 50 years old”.

“Some of these buildings need rehabilitation, and some cannot sustain any additional construction or even slight changes,” said Tarawneh,.

Tarawneh pointed out that “JEA has raised the alarm and has been calling on the Greater Amman Municipality and the Ministry of Local Administration since July 2021, to implement such a project, as there was no real work implemented on the ground.”

Loay Al-Ramahi, JEA association member and chairman of the Mines, Mining, Geological, and Petroleum Division told Jordan News that “some buildings in Jabal Luweibdeh and Jabal Al-Jofeh are more than 50 years old, some need urgent maintenance, and some have undergone renovations without scientific studies”.

He emphasized that “some people underestimate the risks of conducting changes randomly.”

“Constructing new buildings near old buildings can put pressure on the infrastructure, causing cracks and imbalances, and lead to further risks of collapse,” he added.

Ramahi said that “many old buildings lack appropriate sewage systems,” pointing out that a building’s understructure becomes a “reservoir for rain and sewage water, which causes cracks”.

He said that JEA issued and circulated instructions to people regarding effecting changes to buildings or doing any maintenance works “but to no avail”.

Shima Al-Tal, cultural activist and Luweibdeh resident, told Jordan News that “in 2014, about 4,500 people in the area signed a petition and referred it to then mayor of Amman Aqel Biltaji, asking him to push for a law to stop licensing new buildings in the historic neighborhood, ban the demolition of old buildings, and encourage their rehabilitation in order to maintain the infrastructure and the privacy of the area.”

She said that “none of the demands were answered until this moment,” stressing that “Tuesday’s collapse is the result of the absence of real implementation of such laws on the ground.”

Jordan News contacted Greater Amman Municipality’s spokesman Nasser Rahamneh to ask him about the petition; he said he has no information about the issue.

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