SCMP Friday, December 8, 2000

Falling concrete leaves student badly injured


A university student was fighting for her life last night after she was hit on the head by a concrete slab that fell six floors from a building.
Polytechnic University student Yu Pui-han, 19, was critically injured when the 4.5kg slab hit her outside Golden Plaza in Nathan Road at about 1pm.
Falling debris from the shopping mall and residential complex also injured two men, aged 21 and 25, who were near Ms Yu. All three were taken to Kwong Wah Hospital where the men were treated and discharged.
Police cordoned off the area and closed a northbound lane of Nathan Road as Buildings Department engineers examined the 13-storey building, which is 20 years old.
A spokesman for the building's mutual committee said the outer wall had never been maintained, but owners had third-party insurance. The first five floors are rented to shopkeepers at the mall with flats above.
A department spokesman said a government contractor had been sent to repair the affected section of wall, and the building was otherwise safe.
"A concrete slab and secondary debris fell from the outer wall of the upper residential sector of the building and unfortunately hit several pedestrians," the spokesman said. "The building is structurally sound."
The department is examining the terms of ownership of the building to determine who should be held responsible for the wall's maintenance.
Director of Buildings Leung Chin-man visited Ms Yu and her family in hospital last night.
The Planning and Lands Bureau's taskforce on building safety and preventive maintenance has proposed setting up low-interest loans for poor flat owners to repair blocks, with preferential terms given to elderly owners.
The bureau has also suggested tough measures to allow owners' corporations to mortgage owners' flats if they refuse to pay their share of repair bills. However, this proposal has been attacked by housing critics and some legislators.
In August last year, a Mongkok hawker was killed by concrete that fell from an illegally built canopy.
Since 1990, 101 people - including construction workers - have been killed and 406 injured in 111 accidents relating to poor building maintenance, according to Buildings Department figures.