Tongaat operation on hold

2013-11-20 19:25
(Picture via Twitter)

(Picture via Twitter)

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Johannesburg - The rescue operation at the Tongaat mall construction site has been called off temporarily, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Wednesday.

"The scene has been handed over to the department of labour who will start removing the concrete," police spokesperson Thulani Zwane said.

"Rescue officers will be on standby."

A section of the mall, which was under construction, collapsed on Tuesday, killing a woman and injuring 29 people.

Earlier, the labour department's KwaZulu-Natal occupational safety assistant director Sandile Khubeka said officials arrived at the scene on Tuesday. They and city engineers were examining the structure and talking to witnesses.

Khubeka said he could not provide more information until the investigation had been completed.

eThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo said the mall's owners and the contractors working on it did not have approved building plans.

"No application has ever been made to the city by the current owners or anyone acting on their behalf for the approval of building plans for the construction of the property in question," he told reporters in Durban.

Nxumalo said the only applications received for the site were for earthworks, not for buildings. The applications had been refused, most recently in May.

When the municipality became aware that there was construction at the site, inspectors were sent there and the matter went to court.

Court order

The KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban granted a court order on 14 November directing the property's owners, Rectangular Property Investments, to suspend all building operations.

eThekwini municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole denied that the municipality had dragged its feet in attempts to halt construction at the site.

Asked why the police were not called to shut down the site, Nxumalo said the site could not be policed 24-hours a day.

He said the company had not received preferential treatment.

Sithole praised emergency personnel's handling of the aftermath of the collapse.

The city would continue with legal processes to obtain a contempt of court order to shut down the site.

It would also pursue those responsible and charge them where they had contravened the law.

Nxumalo said the search and rescue efforts had been temporarily suspended as the labour department took control of operations at the site.

The municipality had appointed a registered engineer to determine why part of the structure collapsed.

Read more on:    james nxumalo  |  durban  |  tongaat mall collapse  |  search and rescue

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