Panel that fell 40 storeys from HDB block is one of several incidents of pieces falling off flats and endangering the public

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The Singapore Democratic Party has urged the Government to “take urgent and comprehensive action to ensure the structural safety of HDB buildings before injury or, worse, death results.” This, after a piece of decorative panel fell 40 storeys from a HDB block at Bendemeer Road and landed with a “loud crash” beside a playground, earlier this week.

Asserting that this isn’t the first incident of pieces falling off HDB blocks, the opposition party pointed to several similar incidents from 2016 onwards.

In September 2016, a concrete slab dislodged from Block 201E at Tampines while a cladding panel broke off Block 51, Circuit Road less than a month later. A month after that, a slab of plaster dropped 12 storeys down a HDB block in Hougang.

Then in April 2017, two aluminium panels fell off an HDB block at Indus Road. In the most recent case before the Bendemeer Road incident, a piece of cladding fell off Block 270 in Pasir Ris town with a sound similar to a “very loud cluster of thunder,” according to a resident.

The Pasir Ris cladding incident occurred mere days before the panel fell off the flat in Bendemeer Road.

Interestingly, the SDP highlighted blocks involved in these incidents are relatively new yet “pieces are breaking off and endangering public safety.”

The SDP further noted that in both recent instances, Housing Development Board (HDB) and the respective town councils responded to mainstream media reporters that the pieces that fell off are simply part of the block facade design and that it is non-structural.

HDB and the town councils have assured that the buildings involved are structurally safe, but curiously made no mention of any rectifications it would make to ensure that the falling pieces do not injure residents or pedestrians.

Bringing attention to the safety risks these blocks pose, along with the danger defective elevators in several HDB estates have caused residents, the SDP asserted:

“The painful fact is that the quality of construction of HDB buildings is compromised. HDB should stop saying that the buildings are structurally safe because they are not. The problem has not been satisfactorily resolved.
“The SDP sounds a clear warning for the government to take urgent and comprehensive action to ensure the structural safety of HDB buildings before injury or, worse, death results.”

Read the party’s full statement here:

“A decorative panel fell 40 storeys from an HDB block in Bendemeer Road “with a loud crash” next to a playground.

“Luckily, no one was injured. The mishap could have been deadly – involving children.

“In response to queries from The Straits Times, HDB and the Jalan Besar Town Council (JBTC) said: “The panel is part of the block facade design and is non-structural. The building is structurally safe.”

“We don’t know what questions the newspaper asked but clearly HDB and JBTC gave a non-answer. Everyone knows that the panel is part of the block’s facade and no one has asked whether the building is in danger of collapsing.

“What the people want to know is why was the structure in such a sorry state with pieces falling off with the potential of causing harm to passers-by.

“And this is not the first such incident.

“Just days before, a part of an HDB block’s decorative cladding fell off its facade at Block 270 in Pasir Ris town. A resident said that it sounded like a “very loud cluster of thunder.”

“Again, HDB and the Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council gave the standard non-answer that “a piece of decorative cladding had dislodged from the facade” of the block and that “the building is structurally safe.”

“There were several other similar incidents:

25 September 2016, a concrete slab broke off from Block 201E at Tampines.

19 October 2016, a cladding panel fell off Block 51, Circuit Road.

29 November 2016, a slab of plaster fell 12 storeys from an HDB block in Hougang.

1 April 2017, two aluminium panels fell off an HDB block at Indus Road.

“The authorities said that the cladding panels broke off due to wear and tear. But the buildings involved are relative new. Yet, pieces are breaking off and endangering public safety.

“HDB blocks have also been plagued with faulty lifts that have resulted in residents being injured including one death.

“The painful fact is that the quality of construction of HDB buildings is compromised. HDB should stop saying that the buildings are structurally safe because they are not. The problem has not been satisfactorily resolved.

“The SDP sounds a clear warning for the government to take urgent and comprehensive action to ensure the structural safety of HDB buildings before injury or, worse, death results.”