Tongaat Mall design ‘flawed’

2014-02-15 00:00

JAY Singh — the man widely believed to be behind the construction of an illegal mall in Tongaat that collapsed — will be the last person to give evidence at a special commission convened to investigate the disaster.

Structural engineering consultant Rob Young, hired by Singh to investigate the collapse, told the commission of inquiry yesterday that the design of the mall was “materially flawed”.

The commission was set up by the Department of Labour to investigate what led to the collapse of the semi-constructed R300 million mall on November 19, 2013. Just days earlier, a Durban high court order was obtained by the eThekwini Metro ordering construction to be halted for failing to have building permission. The order was ignored.

Two people were killed and 29 injured when a three-storey section of the mall pancaked while, according to eyewitnesses, the supports were being removed.

Young, who was the lead engineer at the King Shaka International Airport, said the manner in which the mall collapsed was unusual.

“We have conducted a desktop analysis of the drawing and found defects that could have led to the collapse. Usually in a collapse one panel goes and the others follow but here there was a trigger and the slab swivelled and came down in one uniform piece,” said Young.

He told the commission that for a thorough and safe investigation on location, it would take at least six weeks and would include a controlled demolition of the large concrete slab lying on the ground.

Commissioner Phumudzo Maphala said if all went according to plan, he will be able to make his findings in August with Singh being interrogated in early June. “The last person I am likely to cross examine is Singh once we have seen all the findings and reports as he has been mentioned on numerous occasions throughout the inquiry,” he said.

Also yesterday at the Durban high court, mall developer Rectangle Property Investments, run by Singh’s son Ravi Jagadasan, had its contempt of court hearing postponed. The city wants the mall demolished.

The Witness has learnt that Singh has no intention of demolishing the entire mall and plans on keeping areas that have not collapsed for future development.

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