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Bystanders, motorists, and workers help in hoisting up one of the swallowed cars in the freak incident. Pha Lina

Authorities vow to improve construction management

Have you ever parked your car and thought that your vehicle could fall into a sinkhole due to a road collapse?

This far-fetched possibility actually turned into someone’s reality last week at an Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation (OCIC) construction site in Phnom Penh.

Last Wednesday, a road collapse next to the Olympia City project swallowed one vehicle and heavily damaged two others during a flash flood.

It has become the first accident that authorities have described as an incident that could have been prevented, and, as such, have vowed to improve the construction safety standards in Phnom Penh.

Touch Samnang, project manager at OCIC, said on the phone that the company is now repairing the 20-metre-long sinkhole on Street 161 adjacent to the Olympia City development, adding that the authorities would take too long to repair such damage.
He continued, “The reparation cost is between $2,000 and $3,000 as we already have the appropriate machinery; we only need to spend money on restructuring the road and buying materials.”

However, Samnang was reluctant to accept that OCIC, owner of Olympia City, was completely at fault.

“This road collapse was not caused by our construction site but by the ‘natural disaster’ and these incidents not only happen in Cambodia but also in other countries.”

With regards to the protection measures around the construction site, Samnang said, “I have sent the expert team to inspect that site and check the sewage pipe and road. If there is any hole or pipe hole the company will fix that in advance to prevent further accidents.”

Phnom Penh City Hall spokesperson, Mean Chanyada, said following the road collapse incident, the government is currently working on two issues.

“First, the Department of Public Works and Transport is now repairing the damage around the construction site of OCIC company and two, the authority has dealt with the owner of the vehicles in which OCIC will be responsible for the loss, and the company has already agreed.”

He continued that, “to prevent further incidents, the Phnom Penh governor has assigned the Department of Public Works and Land Management to technically inspect the area around the construction site to ensure that the incident will not happen again.”

Lao Tip Seiha, deputy general director of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction suggested OCIC thoroughly check its other construction sites to ensure such an incident does not re-occur.

Seiha said that the ministry takes measures on a case-by-case basis, but outlined a number of safety measures that required universal uptake.

These include the construction companies being required to build a wall and land barrier to protect the water flow through the soil which could lead to road collapse; the company shall fix the damage as soon as possible and the reparation shall follow instructions and standards to ensure safety and quality; and the company shall put lights on at night to prevent accidents and take extra caution of the building’s pillar dredging as it is responsible for the quality and safety of the whole building.

He added, “This message is for every construction company to follow, not just OCIC.”

The owner of the three vehicles that sank in the road collapse near the construction site of Olympia City wanted to be referred to by his nickname ‘Da’.

He said if had known the road could give way in such a fashion, he would not have parked his cars in that area.

He added, “The collapse has damaged my cars and I have to spend $400 to repair those three cars.” He continued, “Regarding the compensation, if they come and give it to me, I will accept, but if I have to contact the City Hall to get the compensation, I will not go since the process is long.”

Da said he had never seen such a road collapse occur in Cambodia before. He suggested all construction companies adhere to good construction standards and proper techniques to prevent this incident from happening again, either there or anywhere else in the country.

This is not the first time Olympia City and OCIC have been embroiled in controversy. In late 2014, a rod fell from one of the buildings, causing the tragic death of a woman who was driving with her child on the road.

Olympia City, a mixed-use development consisting of condominiums, offices and retail space, is earmarked for completion in 2019.

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