BFA first to arrive in building collapse at Thai University
An under-construction building at the Burapha University has collapsed overnight reportedly killing up to three people and injuring 10 others. Official investigations commencing on Monday have added confusion to the exact death and injury toll, with at least 30 workers onsite at the time of the accident.
Bang Saen, the 15th of August 2010: At approximately 9:30pm on Sunday, Lieutenant Colonel Somkid Hiang Satien (Saensuk Police Investigator) was notified of a severe building collapse at the Burapha University on Post Road, Bang Saen. A team of investigative officers and rescue personnel were immediately dispatched to the incident.
At the scene, amongst a group of buildings under construction at the Burapha University, officers found that a two-storey building adjacent to the campus library had partially collapsed. The entire floor of the second storey was found to have fallen through onto the ground level, while the scaffolding surrounding the construction had also collapsed in the incident.
Rescue workers attending the scene reported 3 dead and over 10 injured in the immediate aftermath to the collapse; while a further 25, labourers were allegedly trapped in fallen remains of the construction. University staff and rescue services immediately transported the injured and deceased to the Chon-Buri and Burapha University hospitals for treatment.
According to witnesses at the scene, construction labourers of Thai and Cambodian nationality had been pouring approximately 500 tonne of concrete onto the second floor of the building when the structure collapsed. Reportedly, the support beams holding the partially constructed second floor gave-way under the weight of the fresh concrete.
The collapsed building, funded from a Bt250 million grant from the Ministry of Education, is a new conference center for the expanding university, which has two further construction projects ongoing at present. The conference facility is being constructed on the site of old water reservoir, filled with soil prior to the laying of foundations.
Dr. Montri Yamkasikorn (Dean of Burapha University’s Faculty of Education) explained that attempts to contact the contracted engineers and project managers were ongoing, while no university staff or students had been harmed in the incident. Dr. Yamkasikorn explained that the site, while under development, remains the responsibility of the contracted construction company, Billion Engineering Co. Ltd and as such no responsibility should fall on the University administration over the incident.
Meanwhile, investigations into the cause of the collapse and attempts to rescue the remaining trapped labourers were temporarily halted on Monday morning as officials sort to better organise rescue efforts. Present at the scene of the accident were, Mr. Senee Jitkasem (Chon-Buri Governor), Mr. Chaiyot Jiramethakul (Deputy Minister of Education) and Major General Thanet Pin-Ngam (Chon-Buri Police Commissioner).
In an official press released early on Monday morning, Mr. Jiramethakul revealed media reporting on the incident to be incorrect, with statements on the amount of dead, injured and trapped workers at the scene reportedly inaccurate. Mr. Jiramethakul also explained that an urgent request has been sent round all Thai universities ordering an inspection of campus structures.
According to Maj Gen. Pin-Ngam there were only seven labourers working onsite at the time of the collapse who have all now been rescued. Four of the involved are said to be injured or deceased, while the other three are reportedly safe and unharmed. Allegedly the injured will be compensated with Bt5,000 each whilst the deceased’s family will receive some form of compensation, but a figure has not been released.
He revealed that investigation are likely to take approximately 7-days to complete, explaining that, due to it being a governmental construction project planning permission is not required. Construction plans for the development are now being sort for examination by investigators.
Conflicting reports on the amount of labourers involved, injured and deceased continue to plague investigations, with later reports suggesting that six people had been found in the collapse while a further two were still missing.
Police Major General Suweera Songmetta (Chon-Buri Police Investigator) revealed that investigations are ongoing with police looking to talk to several key personnel involved with the construction, including, Mr. Gritsada Pathibutyothin (Construction Manager), Mr. Thaweechai Sumranwanit (University Appointed Supervisor), Mr. Wanlop Roongrueng (Head Engineer), Mr. Suraphol Ngamlert (Project Manager from Brillion Engineering) and Mr. Pratoun Ritdamrong (Brillion Engineering Company Manager).
In late breaking news, Police have allegedly charged Mr. Pathibutyothin the construction manager and a lead sub-contractor, Mr. Sumrieng Pohsritat, with negligent management and construction practices resulting in death and injury.
Editor’s Note: All reports indicated at the time of the initial collapse state that at least 30 workers were on the site when the incident occurred. Subsequent phone conversations with an on the scene reporter by PDN indicted that at least 3 people were dead and over 10 injured, while rescue workers were frantically trying to rescue many more trapped labourers.
The appearance of several high-ranking officials and law enforcement officers, forced the closure of the construction site to the media and immediately prompted press releases of media inaccuracies and significant differences in the number of people involved in the incident. At one point, the same official revealed in a statement that no one working on the site was unaccounted for or trapped, before a later statement was made regarding the rescue workers continuing to search for missing labourers.
The presence of numerous suspected Cambodian workers on the construction site and the fact that the Education Ministry had been so quick to respond to the situation should not be discounted in the confusing reports, given current Thai-Cambodian relations and the likely unwillingness to “stir the pot” so to speak.
Allegedly, numerous projects handled by governmental departments involve outsourced Cambodian labourers by the contracted construction companies, while reports of insufficient or inadequate construction practices and materials are not uncommon.