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Fears grow for buildings

Fears grow for buildings

The colonial-era buildings damaged by a construction site along Phnom Penh’s bustling riverfront are under threat of imminent collapse, a structural engineer who examined the area said yesterday.

Local company Vattanac yesterday complied with local authority demands to halt construction at the Sisowath Quay site – between Streets 178 and 184 – after disregarding the same orders on Wednesday by continuing to dig near the foundations of  the adjacent building. “It can collapse at any minute with any further ground movement,” said structural engineer and managing director for ILI Consulting Engineers Mekong Ltd Rainer Israel.

“If groundwater flows into the construction pit it could shift some soil and the building could collapse immediately. The construction was not designed or executed professionally…it would have a negative affect of any structure.”

Ministry of Land Management Secretary of State Phoeung Sophoan said he had visited the site on Tuesday to survey damage to the buildings. He confirmed that occupants in the damaged buildings had been temporarily evacuated as experts assessed the next move.

General Manager of Lady Penh Designs Sitha Mak is, however, unsure if she will evacuate her shop – which has been damaged following the Vattanac construction – out of fear she will lose her lease. “If I leave then the owner of the building will end my contract,” she said yesterday.

Sitha Mak signed a three-year contract on her riverfront fashion boutique – which now has cracks of about 15-feet long on the floor – and has only been in the space for six-and-a-half months.

But although Israel believes the two building directly adjacent to the building site are facing imminent danger of collapse, he does not think that the popular Foreign Correspondents’ Club will be seriously damaged. “It [construction] might cause cracks, but I don’t think the FCC should be affected seriously.”

Architectural historian Darryl Collins, who now lives in Siem Reap, yesterday said he has been paying close attention to the situation. “I have been watching the reports with some degree of dismay… it will only get worse.”

Chhun Leang, president of Vattanac Properties Ltd and chairperson of Vattanc Bank, could not be reached yesterday.

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