Rescue operation ends in Tanzanian commercial capital as toll hits 36

Rescue operations for the collapsed 16-storey building in Tanzania's commercial capital Dar es Salaam were officially closed down on Monday as the death toll reached 36.

The building, which was under construction and located at the junction of Indira Gandhi Street and Morogoro Road in Dar es Salaam's central business district, collapsed on Friday morning, reportedly trapping over 60 people.

Seventeen people were injured when the structure collapsed with 10 of them still admitted to the Muhimbili National Hospital, Tanzania's leading referral facility. The final death toll of 36 killed people, including children, was announced at the scene of the grisly accident by the Dar es Salaam special zone regional police commander Suleiman Kova.

Nine people, including the owner of Lucky Construction Limited, the main contractor of the ill-fated building, were being questioned by police, Kova said, adding that police were also holding for questioning the building's chief engineer, quantity surveyor and the construction engineer.

"After preliminary police investigations, main suspects will be arraigned for prosecution," he said. The minister for home affairs, Emmanuel Nchimbi, who represented Tanzanian President Kikwete, thanked institutions and individuals who participated in the rescue mission.

The institutions include the Tanzania People's Defense Forces, China Railway Construction Engineering Group, Tanzania Road Haulage and Strabag, a German construction company undertaking the Dar rapid transit project.

"You have done a wonderful job," Nchimbi said, shortly before the rescue teams started to move their heavy duty equipment away from the wreckage of the building.

The Dar es Salaam regional commissioner, Said Meck Sadick, said the president has ordered the formation of an investigative team comprising contractors and engineers to probe reasons behind the collapse of the building.

"The president has also ordered the inspection of all buildings under construction throughout the country," said Sadick.

On Sunday, Sadick ordered the demolition of three buildings close to the ill-fated building over safety concerns.

He directed the National Housing Corporation (NHC), owners of the three buildings, to demolish the structures after they developed huge cracks caused by the collapsed building.

The NHC director general Nehemiah Mchechu said the buildings ordered for demolition were two three-storey and one four-storey, used as residential and commercial structures.

"We will sit down and decide when we should start demolishing the buildings but it will not take long," he told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

The deputy minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, Goodluck Ole-Medeye, said the government will inspect all high-rise buildings in Dar es Salaam to establish whether they meet required standards.

However, he could not say when the inspection will begin but he said substandard buildings will be pulled down.

The collapse of the 16-storey building, which was under construction, was a stark reminder of the failure by Dar es Salaam construction quality controllers to learn from past mistakes.

In the last seven years, at least three buildings have tumbled down which include a four-storey hotel building, Village Hotel at Chang'ombe in the city that collapsed on Friday March 17, 2006.

Owners of the hotel were putting up an annex building when it collapsed. Five people were feared dead in the accident but only one corpse could be pulled out of the rubble.

Two years later, on June 21, 2008, a 10-storey building under construction in the city center collapsed killing one person and injuring several others.

Early this month, a four-storey residential building at Sinza kwa Mori, in Kinondoni Municipality, collapsed but there was neither casualty nor fatality. Experts said substandard construction materials and negligence of contractors are largely to blame for the tragedies.