Building in Manila collapses; no one hurt
- Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe () - July 24, 2004 - 12:00am
A nine-story commercial-residential building in Divisoria, Manila which has been leaning precariously for days collapsed at around 4:30 p.m. yesterday, but there were no fatalities as authorities had safely evacuated the occupants.

Manila City Administrator Dino Nable sustained injuries on his right knee during a stampede when kibitzers scampered for safety as the building started to crumple sideways before crashing to the ground.

Nable had earlier ordered electricity cut in the area as part of security measures.

The five-year-old SAI Building at Padre Rada and Juan Luna streets housed a branch of the Insular Savings Bank, a marketing firm and several residential apartments.

Bank employees have yet to get the cash from the vault in the collapsed building.

Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, who was at the scene, has ordered a thorough investigation of the incident.

"First and foremost, we want to ensure the safety of the people around the area," he said.

"We will investigate what happened. We will check from the architectural design to engineering aspect of the building to get to the bottom of the matter."

Atienza commended the government agencies and volunteer groups that carried out the evacuation of the building. He cited officials of the Manila Disaster Coordinating Council (MDCC), fire marshal Pablito Cordeta and police and barangay officials for the early and orderly evacuation of the building.

Authorities arrived at the scene at around 1 p.m., two hours after Ernesto Ozaeta, security guard of Insular Savings Bank, reported to the bank manager that he had felt "pounding" on the ground floor of the building.

"Pinakiramdaman ko muna, mga ilang minuto lang isang malakas na lagutok ang nadinig ko kaya dali-dali akong lumabas at nakita ko nga na tagilid na ang building," Ozaeta said.

Upon receiving the report, the building administrator instructed the occupants to evacuate immediately. Authorities also ordered occupants of neighboring buildings to get out.

Senior Superintendent Danilo Abarsoza, Western Police District Station 2 commander, ordered his men to close and cordon off the stretch of Juan Luna from C. M. Recto Avenue to Padre Rada.

At around 1 p.m., Ajit Mansukhani, the building’s owner, arrived at the scene with building engineer Harry Wong to supervise and assess the situation.

"We only have to think of ways to do that," Wong said.

"We don’t know what’s going to happen. The building was designed to last for more than 10 years, but simultaneous construction in the north side and across the building apparently weakened the foundation."

Wong proposed that the building be demolished immediately to minimize the damage and prevent a "domino effect."

But authorities said there was no equipment for that kind of demolition.

AJIT MANSUKHANI BUILDING ERNESTO OZAETA HARRY WONG INSULAR SAVINGS BANK JUAN LUNA MANILA CITY ADMINISTRATOR DINO NABLE MANILA DISASTER COORDINATING COUNCIL MANILA MAYOR LITO ATIENZA PABLITO CORDETA
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