Hanoi launches criminal probe into deadly house collapse

By Ba Do   August 8, 2016 | 12:45 am PT
The neighbors face up to 20 years in jail if faulty construction work was the cause.

Police in Hanoi have decided to launch a criminal investigation into a house collapse that killed two people and left four others injured last week.

A three-storey building in the city's Old Quarter gave way early last Thursday after work on the adjacent property is believed to have made the ground unstable.

The initial investigation has found that the collapse was caused by faulty construction work on the adjoining house.

According to police, torrential rain from Typhoon Mirinae that hit Hanoi just a few days before may have also contributed to the tragedy.

Neighbors also said the collapsed house had signs of structural flaws, probably caused by the stress of time.  

The owner of the adjoining house to the one that crumbled is Nguyen Thi Van, 82. Her son Truong Quoc Hung, 43, said the house was built 36 years ago and has been derelict for many years.

Van and her son had hired contractors to knock down the old house and build a new one having received approval from local authorities.

Ba Dinh District’s housing officials said the approval was granted on the provision that the owners must assess the condition of adjacent properties and would be held responsible for any damage incurred.

Neighbors said they were shaken awake at 3.30 a.m. by a rumbling sound while pilings were being driven deep into the ground to set the foundations for the next-door house.

Prosecutors said the owners of the house next door might face charges for criminally negligent homicide. The offense can carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, according to lawyers.

Following the incident, Hanoi’s mayor Nguyen Duc Chung asked agencies to examine the structure of old houses nearby following suspicions that the foundations of the house at 43 Cua Bac were undermined by the work next door.

According to official figures, Hanoi is home to nearly 1,600 villas and properties from the French colonial era, aged from 60 to 100 years old.

Vietnam lists these colonial villas in Hanoi as heritage buildings that are subject to protection, meaning the architecture cannot be repaired or altered in any form.

The flip side of this regulation, according to experts, is that it has hampered the overhaul process and discouraged homeowners from making any renovations.

Last September, a 110-year-old villa also collapsed in downtown Hanoi, leaving two dead and six injured. In the wake of the collapse, Hanoi officials launched large-scale inspections of the city's colonial buildings.

Related news:

2 dead after 3-storey colonial house collapses in Hanoi

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