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In the early hours of Saturday, June 27, 2009, something seriously wrong happened to a nearly completed 13 story block of residential flats in the suburbs of Shanghai. No, it wasn’t destroyed by Transformers (as depicted in the photoshopped image); experts speculate that the building’s stability was compromised by an excavation project taking place close to the building’s unreinforced concrete piles.
Exposed pilings stood in the remains of the building’s foundations. It appeared to be almost complete with fitted windows and a finished, tiled facade. Other similar-looking blocks in the same property development were still standing nearby.
Shoddy construction and the use of sub-standard materials is a concern in China’s construction sector as the country scrambles to build out cities and finish massive infrastructure projects to keep pace with fast economic growth.
Construction-related accidents last year included the collapse of a steel arch on a new railway bridge, which killed at least seven and a crane which fell on a kindergarten killing five. The collapse of dozens of schools during last year’s Sichuan earthquake, sometimes when buildings around them withstood the tremor, also led to a wave of public outrage about corrupt officials and construction firms.
Stephen Kennett of Building Answers reports, “It is understood workers were excavating beneath the block at the Lotus Riverside development to make space for an underground car park at the time of the collapse. With little or no reinforcement in the piles, they wouldn’t be able to resist the lateral loads and as a result have sheared.”
Only one worker was killed—noteworthy in a collapse of this scale. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the accident.