Haiti School Collapse – Latest

Mike Echalaz
Monday 10 Nov 2008

School may have collapsed before

The horrific school collapse in Haiti last Friday will have sent shivers down the spine of every architect, so what happened?

As usual in these circumstances facts are scarce and no official information has been made available but reports seem to confirm that the upper floor of the school, which was under construction, collapsed bringing down the two occupied floors below with it. Residents described it as being like a “pack of cards.”

The Mayor of Petionville, Claire Rudie Parent, said she suspected a "structural defect" had caused the second floor to collapse on to the first. She doubted the recent wet weather had contributed to the collapse. Unconfirmed reports also said that construction was banned in the area where the school had stood.

There is no national building code in Haiti, and whenever technical standards are used, the choice seems to be determined by the educational background of the engineers responsible for the design of projects. Most common norms are, in order of importance: ASCE 7-02, French norms, Canadian norms. The same situation prevails in the universities and tertiary institutions where future engineers and construction professionals are trained. As a result, and confirming to the needs expressed by the Haitian officials, developing building standards for the country has been recognized as a priority. Building on our experiences throughout the Caribbean in developing building codes and designing enforcement mechanisms, the Department of Sustainable Development at the Organization of American States (OAS/DSD) has been approached to undertake that initiative.

The BBC's Andy Gallacher said that residents in the area also suspect that the school was poorly rebuilt after it partially collapsed several years ago. Senator Yvon Bissereth is apparently going to ask the minister of education to make an inspection of all the schools built in the same way.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the western hemisphere where mudslides and poor construction are commonplace.

The death toll is still rising and Haitian Prime Minister Michelle Pierre-Louis told the BBC she believed about 700 people had been inside the concrete building when the roof caved in.

Michael Hammond
WAN Editorial Director

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