‘Se­ri­ous’ cracks in Jalan Be­sar shop­houses spark con­cern

The New Paper - - FRONT PAGE - CHEOW SUE-ANN

BCA says build­ings struc­turally safe but own­ers should carry out re­pairs; LTA says MRT works not to blame

Oc­cu­pants of some shop­houses on Jalan Be­sar and Maude Road are con­cerned by se­ri­ous cracks on the fa­cade and struc­ture of the build­ings .

The road and five-foot-ways next to the build­ings also ap­peared sunken and tilted.

Pro­fes­sional En­gi­neer (PE) David Ng, who saw pic­tures of the cracks taken by The New Pa­per, said they looked se­ri­ous.

“If I were to rate the sever­ity of th­ese cracks out of 10, it would be a six or a seven,” said the mem­ber of Civil and Struc­tural En­gi­neer­ing Tech­ni­cal Com­mit­tee at The In­sti­tu­tion of Engi­neers, Sin­ga­pore.

“If the cracks are left unat­tended and the ground move­ment con­tin­ues, the build­ings could col­lapse.”

About half of the af­fected build­ings are va­cant while the rest are still oc­cu­pied by busi­nesses, mostly eater­ies.

When con­tacted, the Build­ing and Con­struc­tion Au­thor­ity (BCA) told TNP: “The shop­houses are struc­turally safe in their cur­rent con­di­tion, though re­pair works to the fa­cade are ad­vised to pre­vent fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion.”

Mr Ng said the cracks were likely caused by the move­ment of the soft clay un­der the build­ings, which could have been due to deep ex­ca­va­tion nearby, tun­nelling or nat­u­ral set­tling of the clay.

The foun­da­tion of many old shop­houses in Sin­ga­pore could be stone or brick, mak­ing them sus­cep­ti­ble to ground move­ment, un­like the stronger and thicker re­in­forced con­crete used to­day, he added.

Food stall­hold­ers and reg­u­lar cus­tomers claimed the cracks be­gan ap­pear­ing af­ter the nearby MRT works started in 2014.

But the Land Trans­port Au­thor­ity (LTA) said that its checks had shown MRT works had not ag­gra­vated the cracks.

Mr Lim Hoon Chee, 58, who has worked at a noo­dle stall for more than a year, said: “The cracks have been vis­i­ble since I started work­ing here.”

He said that one of the sup­port­ing struc­tures fell over on Mon­day night.

“It looks like the ground is still sink­ing, which might be why the metal pole top­pled. It was fixed quickly, but it is still wor­ry­ing,” he told TNP in Man­darin.

‘GET­TING WORSE’

A fre­quent cus­tomer, Mr Melvin Yang, 42, said: “It seems to be get­ting worse. I was buy­ing food on Sun­day when I re­alised that my foot was at an odd an­gle. I looked up and saw the cracks, it was scary.”

BCA said that engi­neers had car­ried out an in­spec­tion of the cracks on the fa­cade of the shop­houses at 200-208 Jalan Be­sar last year and ad­vised the own­ers to en­gage PEs to rec­om­mend rec­ti­fi­ca­tion works af­ter assess­ing that there were no struc­tural risks.

As a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure, steel prop­pings had been in­stalled on the build­ing façade while the own­ers work with PEs to fi­nalise the per­ma­nent rec­ti­fi­ca­tion works, BCA added.

“BCA engi­neers and the ap­pointed PEs have been mon­i­tor­ing the struc­tural safety of th­ese shop­houses reg­u­larly, as re­cently as last month,” its spokesman said.

LTA told TNP that an in­de­pen­dent PE it en­gaged had as­sessed that the cracks ob­served dur­ing the pre-con­struc­tion sur­vey had not been ag­gra­vated by tun­nelling works.

Pre-con­struc­tion sur­veys on the shop­houses in prepa­ra­tion for the con­struc­tion of Down­town Line 3 (DTL3) tun­nelling works around Jalan Be­sar had found a num­ber of cracks on the build­ings, LTA added.

Its spokesman said: “When tun­nelling works were com­pleted in April 2014, in­stru­men­ta­tion read­ings on the build­ings and roads in the vicin­ity showed min­i­mal move­ment.”

LTA said its engi­neers and con­trac­tor car­ried out an­other round of checks last year af­ter some of the build­ing own­ers told LTA about the cracks they ob­served to have widened.

A PE was also en­gaged. The PE con­firmed that the cracks could not have been ag­gra­vated by tun­nelling works, which had been com­pleted 21/2 years ago.

LTA added: “Vi­bra­tions from train op­er­a­tions will not be sig­nif­i­cant enough to cause struc­tural dam­age to the build­ings.”

A con­trac­tor, Mr Lim Ah Bah, 70, who has been en­gaged by the own­ers of one of the shop­houses told TNP that it is likely that four or five shops were badly af­fected by cracks, and PEs would need to be con­sulted to come up with a so­lu­tion.

Mr Pe­ter Ng, 56, a cof­fee shop op­er­a­tor, who has been pa­tro­n­is­ing one of the shops for over 10 years, said: “The dam­age has been get­ting worse over the past few months. I re­ally hope some­thing will be done about it.”

sueannc@sph.com.sg

TNP PHO­TOS: JAS­MINE CHOONG

(Above) Shop­houses show­ing cracks in the build­ings’ struc­tures yes­ter­day.(Left) Cracks in the ceil­ings along the cor­ri­dors and sup­port­ing metal poles have been erected to help prop up the struc­tures.

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