The safety of public buildings has become a major issue after the recent collapse of the Nicosia Municipal Theatre roof, for which the Council of Ministers this week appointed an investigation committee, promising “speedy procedures and punishment of those responsible.”
Giorgos Ioannides, professor of the Metsovio Polytechnic in Athens and an expert in metal roof constructions will head the inquiry assisted by civil engineers Costas Meletiou and Panicos Papadopoulos.
Their terms of reference are to investigate possible negligence or responsibility and submit a report as soon as possible to the Minister of Education and Culture for the information of the Council of Ministers.
According to an official release, President Christofias has given express orders for blame to be apportioned and punishment to be meted out to whosoever may be responsible for the incident.
The roof of the Municipal Theatre, fully renovated only two-and-a-half years ago, caved in on the night of June 11, fortunately when there was nobody inside, causing extensive damage to the fittings and equipment.
The incident gave rise to public outcry as children from a nursery school and their parents were to hold their end of term fiesta there on the day following the collapse.
Bowing to political and public pressure, the government has released a list of 175 public buildings said to pose a safety risk from the point of view of their structural stability.
But Communications and Works Minister Nicos Nicolaides explained that the list was drafted after an earthquake in June 1999 and concerned the anti-seismic capacity of buildings.
Furthermore, he explained that the safety checks were completed only on the public buildings in Nicosia and Paphos, while it had not been possible to initiate the procedure for Limassol and Larnaca.
Nicolaides said that by this week’s decision the Council of Ministers had placed the safety of public buildings in top priority.
More specifically, the Council of Ministers called on all the stakeholders of the wider public sector and on local government authorities to carry out a safety check on public buildings in their jurisdiction.
Moreover, it authorised the Minister of Communications and Works to study the issue jointly with the other government services and the Technical Chamber, taking into consideration the relevant practices prevailing in other countries, and introduce a safety certificate for public buildings.
In order to make up for the loss of use of the Municipal Theatre, the government has decided to transfer temporarily the management of the “Pallas” auditorium, currently under renovation, to Nicosia Municipality. The “Pallas” renovation will be completed in September.
In the same meeting, the Council of Ministers approved a complementary budget concerning the construction of the new building for the Cyprus Theatre Organisation, so as to speed up the process of this project.
Public buildings requiring immediate care
Of the 175 buildings on the Nicosia-Paphos list, 27 were found wanting in anti-seismic safety and requiring immediate maintenance. During the check, “first aid” was given to a number of buildings, while it was necessary for some others to be demolished, the Communications and Works Minister said.
Of the other buildings on the list 57 were found to be quite safe not requiring any improvements, and 91 were in need of additional medium term check.
Most of the buildings in the “immediate check” category were old colonial and other aged constructions in Nicosia such as the following:
*Supreme Court and District Court
*School for the Blind
*Prodromos Post Office
*Central Police Warehouses
*The old colonial Secretariat housing also the Interior Ministry
*The Cyprus Handicraft Centre
*Anthoupolis Sanitary Centre
*Anthoupolis Welfare Centre
In Paphos the buildings in the same category include the following:
*Panayia Forest Station
*Panayia Police Station
*Public Works Department-Refectory
*District Officer’s Residence
*Police Residence D2
*Mediaeval Villa at Kouklia, Wings B and C.
*Ayios Nicolaos Police Station
*Lysos Sanitary Centre
*Kelokedara main Police Station
*Welfare Office and Nursery at Polis Chrysochous
By Philippos Stylianou
The Cyprus Weekly News, 25 June 2008