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Partial building collapse forces nine evacuations

Date Posted: 2009-09-10

Faulty construction materials in a 34-year-old building are suspected as the culprit in the collapse of an Urasoe City apartment building.

Nobody was injured when an apartment hallway collapsed, plunging debris onto a car parked outside the building. All nine families living in the building have been evacuated to a nearby community center. The 20-meter-long section of hallway completely fell away from the building located in the Uchima, Urasoe City. Building specialists have launched an investigation into the cause of the collapse.

One specialist says the building’s concrete may not have been as solid as it should have been, because of ocean sand that may have been used in construction. He says it was common in the 1970-1974 era for construction companies strapped by shortages of materials to use ocean sand. The problem, he says, is that if salty sand is used for concrete, the salt is very dangerous for the iron bars used to reinforce the concrete. Salt dissolves and corrodes the iron, particularly if rainwater gets inside the concrete.

The Ministry of Construction in 1977 prohibited the use of ocean sand for making concrete. The government mandated the sand had to be cleaned and salt stripped away from it. That prohibition was strengthened in 1986. Okinawa Prefecture Police began an investigation of the building contractor, but officials say the construction company has long been bankrupt, and the mysteries of construction 35 years ago will be hard to investigate.

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