Contractors Sued for Negligence After Deadly Scaffolding Collapse at Mandalay Hotel

By Zarni Mann 22 June 2015

MANDALAY— Police in Burma’s second largest city have filed a lawsuit against a contractor at construction site where a scaffolding collapse left two workers dead and 18 in hospital on Saturday.

Nyan Family Construction Group, which oversees part of a new Pullman Hotel in the Mingalar Mandalay development zone, faces charges of negligence that could land its chief contractor in prison for up to 17 years, police said.

“Nwae Oo Maung, the contractor of Nyan Family Construction, was sued under three acts: penal code articles 337, 338 and 304 (a),” Khin Zaw, deputy police superintendant of Chan Mya Thazi Township, told The Irrawaddy.

“These [charges] relate to causing minor and grievous hurt by acts endangering the life or personal safety of others, and causing death by negligence, as at least 18 workers were injured and two died.”

Steel scaffolding on the back side of the hotel site collapsed on Saturday afternoon as workers were pouring concrete, trapping more than 20 laborers in a tangle of rods and cement that was thickening quickly.

Eighteen people were initially removed from the debris by rescue workers and taken to Mandalay General Hospital for treatment, two others died at the site. Another, 20-year-old San Myint Aung, was reached by rescuers—still alive—more than 30 hours after the incident.

A spokesperson for Mandalay General Hospital said 10 workers sustained minor injuries and have already been discharged, while the rest remain in treatment. San Myint Aung suffered serious damage to his blood vessels and had both of his legs partially amputated. His right hand could also be affected.

“He is currently in the ICU and we are worried that the functionality of his right arm will not come back,” the hospital spokesperson said, adding that he is still being examined for further internal injuries.

The patient’s brother, Aung San Myint, who also works at the site, said rescuers were quick to respond but that the debris was difficult to work around, causing lengthy delays.

“I was out from the site for a while quenching my thirst, and suddenly I heard roaring sounds,” Aung San Myint recalled.

“My brother, San Myint Aung, and my friends were buried under the concrete and trapped between the steel pipes. We tried to pull them out but we couldn’t do it on our own,” he said.

A team of rescuers comprising police, firemen, Red Cross and other volunteers arrived at the site within minutes, but they lacked the equipment for safe and efficient removal. Rescuers had to cut through hardening cement and a tangle of steel to reach the victims.

An officer from the Myanmar Red Cross Society said one worker, Aye Myat Ko, 19, died as rescuers attempted to reach him. Another, whose identity has not yet been disclosed, is believed dead and buried beneath the rubble as searchers attempt to locate and remove his body.

The chief of the Mandalay Division Fire Brigade, Than Zaw Oo, lamented the loss of two lives and delays in the rescue operation, stating that “we have the manpower, but we don’t have the machinery” to reach emergency victims in such difficult circumstances.

“The lack of technology and equipments slow the response down,” he said. “If our work was delayed any longer, I can’t imagine what would have happened to San Myint Aung. We are happy that he survived but we are sorry for losing two men there.”

The exact cause of the collapse is still under investigation, though Mandalay-based engineer Tint Lwin speculated that it was likely caused by miscalculations about how much weight could be supported by the steel rods used to build the structure.

“There may have been a failure in the scaffolding because the pipes were too small to support the weight, and the base was too high off the ground,” Tint Lwin said, explaining that other factors, such as groundwork that was not sturdy enough to support the structure, may have complicated its integrity.

The Pullman Hotel project is being carried out by three primary contractors: New Star Light, CAD and Nyan Family Construction, which manages the portion of the site where the accident occurred. The project’s primary investor is Regal Hospitality Co., Ltd.

Nyan Family officials said the company will take full responsibility for those injured and deceased. The incident is being investigated by Singaporean iBuild Project Management with the support of Mandalay municipal and divisional departments of construction.