The World Today for July 16, 2021



Falling Down

The tragic collapse of the Surfside condominium in Florida last month highlighted how such accidents are unfortunately common around the world, often due to larger systematic reasons that are beyond any building manager or even local official.

Take the photo of a cracked concrete balcony in Odessa in Ukraine featured in a Business Insider story. It’s a common site throughout Eastern European cities, where owners often lack the money to properly maintain buildings.

Two years ago, for example, a section of an apartment building in Magnitogorsk in southern Russia crumbled, killing 39, the New York Times reported. The building, like most others across Russia and its neighbors, dated to the Soviet era, raising serious questions about the integrity of many other structures.

Poor building codes and practices are also to blame for many of the tragedies. In late June, a building collapsed in Alexandria, Egypt, killing five people. A few months earlier, at least 25 people died in an apartment building collapse in Cairo.

“Shoddy construction is widespread in shantytowns, poor city neighborhoods and rural areas” in Egypt, wrote the Associated Press. Rich neighborhoods in Egypt can be unsafe, also. Developers often violate building permits in order to add extra floors and space to make more money in major cities like Alexandria and Cairo.

Dozens have died in Brazil in similar accidents. A 2019 collapse in an upscale neighborhood of the northeastern city of Fortaleza occurred after workers damaged pillars holding up the building. Other buildings collapsed because organized crime syndicates involved in their construction did a poor job, Voice of America added.

Lack of private or public investment is also an issue. A spate of dilapidated building collapses occurred in France recently, where critics said local officials were doing too little to oversee and improve substandard housing in low-income neighborhoods, the Washington Post reported.

Perhaps the worst building collapse abroad in recent memory was the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza near Dhaka, Bangladesh. The eight-story building hosted at least five garment factories, the New Yorker wrote. More than 1,100 people died.

That terrible incident led to an agreement between European retailers like H&M and Primark, Bangladeshi factory owners and labor unions to improve worker safety in the fashion industry. That agreement could expire, however, as the parties negotiate to reconsider the deal, the New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, wrote Xinhua, another building in Bangladesh recently fell down, killing seven.

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