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December 31, 2012

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Top of downtown historic building partly collapses during renovation

THE top two stories of a downtown historic building collapsed early yesterday morning, causing no injuries but showering the area below with falling brick and concrete, blocking traffic in the Bund area.

It was the second structural collapse at a Shanghai building this month.

The eight-story building, the Sichuan Building at the crossroad of Yan'an Road E. and Sichuan Road M. in Huangpu District, had its top structures, on the seventh and eighth floors, partly collapse about 3am yesterday.

Parts of those stories facing south collapsed with a loud sound, with heavy concrete chunks hitting the road and sidewalk below.

The damaged building was undergoing interior renovation when the collapse happened, according to Huangpu District government. City police and work safety authorities are investigating the cause.

"The seventh and eighth floors were added to the building in the 1980s," according to an initial investigation of a task force led by a deputy district director. About 600 square meters were damaged.

The building, designed by a Norwegian engineer and finished in 1943, was once owned by the British company Wheelock. It also is known as the Texaco building as it was leased to American oil giant Texaco in the past. Now it is home to several companies that rent space, and it was given historic protection in 1993 by the city government.

Residents nearby were evacuated soon after.

The district government said late yesterday that 39 people in 13 households living nearby had returned home after being temporarily resettled, with 49 visitors living in nearby hotels evacuated and remaining elsewhere.

Major roads nearby such as Yan'an and Sichuan roads were closed to traffic. A ramp of the underground Bund tunnel also was closed, said city traffic authorities, leading to congestion. Traffic was still blocked last night as the clearing work progressed.

By late yesterday afternoon, the rooftop and debris on the building were removed as a construction company entrusted by the government for clearing work. Some tenants were allowed limited access.

"We just brought out two computers because they have important files and data stored on them," said a staff member who works on the fourth floor.

Workers from the building said it was being checked for safety yesterday. "We do not know whether it's safe or not," one worker said.

Cracks were first observed in the building on Saturday night when the renovation workers inside retreated after alerting others, local TV news said.

Renovation work was being conducted by a company named Shanghai Di'ang Industrial Development Co, authorities said.

City commerce and industry authorities' information showed that the company was registered in the same building that collapsed. The company's services include real estate development, construction material, renovation and mine products, according to the files. It was set up in May 2006.

It remained unclear whether the renovation work had been approved by local housing authorities, as required by Shanghai historical building protection regulations.

Building safety issue garnered public attention after a four-story building undergoing illegal renovation collapsed, killing three in Minshang District on December 10.


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