A damaged car is removed from debris of a 15-storey building that collapsed along Indira Gandi Street in Dar es Salaam yesterday. Several of persons were killed and scores of others injured. Photo: Selemani Mpochi
At least four people were reported dead and dozens more trapped into a 14-storey building that collapsed yesterday at the junction of Indira Gandhi and Asia streets in one of Dar es Salaam’s busiest business centres.
Briefing journalists at the scene, Dar es Salaam Regional Special Police Zone Commander Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police ( (SACP) Suleiman Kova said some 17 other people most of whom workers at the construction site, were rescued and rushed to the Muhimbili National Hospital ( MNH), Amana and Aga Khan hospitals for treatment.
Kova said police are holding three engineers for interrogation in connection with the incident.
He named them as the Ilala Municipal engineer Ogare Salu, a building engineer Godluck Mbaga and the building supervisor engineer Wilbroad Mulyaguso.
However, he said that police had since mounted a manhunt for the owner of the building whom he couldn’t immediately identify and, according to him, he is said to have disappeared.
He said police were searching for him so that he could help in their investigations.
Sources at the site of the accident named the owner of ill-fated building as Alizara Dewji, who is also said to own a 16-storey building located just the opposite side of the collapsed building.
However, information that reached this newspaper late in the evening stated that the owner of the building was arrested in the afternoon.
Witnesses said dozens of construction workers and food vendors, popularly known as Mama Lishe, were in the building that morning when it collapsed at around 08:00, and that scores of children were playing soccer in a nearby playground adjacent to the collapsed structure.
A spot check at the scene by The Guardian witnessed bulldozers removing heaps of debris in attempts to reach trapped survivors.
Other heavy construction equipment like cranes were later brought to the site to assist in lifting heavy concrete slabs to no avail – even as some people blamed the government for lack of modern rescue equipment.
There are widespread fears that dozens of people could have died in the accident, especially construction labourers at work at the material moment. It is estimated that around 200 people were involved in the construction work, including engineers and laborers.
The collapsed building was being constructed by Lucky Construction Limited; Sou Consult Limited were as the structural engineers while NHA Limited were cited as the architects.
The building permit for the collapsed structure No.0398 was issued by Ilala Municipal Council -- for commercial and residential purposes.
The president of the Institute of Engineers (Tanzania), Malima Bundara said a weak foundation and use of substandard building material could be the major causes of the accident.
However, Kova said police in collaboration with the Contractors Registration Board ( CRB) and Engineers Registration Board( CRB) would team up to investigate the accident.
Yesterday’s accident could be the worst tragedy involving the collapse of high-rise buildings in the country. On August, 1987 a four-storey building under construction collapsed along Msimbazi Street, killing seven people.
In 2006, a three-storey building in Chang’ombe area collapsed, injuring several people. Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa formed a team to investigate the incident but its findings and recommendations are yet to be made public to date.
In 2008, a ten-storey building along Mtendeni Street in Kisutu area also collapsed, injuring some individuals.
Dar es Salaam regional Commissioner Said Meck Saidiq issued a stop order for the construction of another 16-storey building owned by the same individual and constructed by the same contractors.
The building which is adjacent to the collapsed building is in final stages of completion.
President Jakaya Kikwete and his wife Mama Salma Kikwete visited the site but fell short of words.
Other politicians who visited the site were nominated Member of Parliament of James Mbatia and CUF Deputy Secretary General Julius Mtatiro.
They both blamed the government for its slow response to the incident.
Tanzania People’s Defense Force (TPDF) soldiers led by Major Stanslaus Mishako and anti-riot police took control of the area.
Major Mishako said in an interview that he had 200 soldiers, 105 of them from the National Service Headquarter and 95 came from KJ 831 -- Mgulani camp.
Even then, trapped victims are said to have been making phone calls to friends and relatives.