The house collapsed last September. (IWN File Photo)

The owner of the house that collapsed in Clare Valley on Friday had reported to the Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC) that the house had been shaking two months earlier.

The three-bedroom concrete house collapsed sometime after 4 p.m. Friday.

It was built about two and a half years ago as part of the Unity Labour Party government’s affordable housing initiative.
A resident of the South Leeward community, which has low- and middle-income houses, told I-Witness News that the columns under the house bowed before the house collapsed.

The homeowner, physician Katisha Douglas, told reporters on Saturday that two months ago she thought she was experiencing an earthquake.

“I was asleep with my daughter in my room and I felt some shaking and I was saying, ‘Is this an earthquake?’” she told journalists.

“So the next morning I listened to the news to see if there was an earthquake. I asked some friends and they said no…” she said, adding that she had felt the house shake more than once.

Douglas said that she noticed a crack in the house on Sept. 7 as she attempted to latch an open door to a column, as she often does. (Torrential rains triggered floods and landslides in some parts of St. Vincent on Sept. 6),

”… when I looked I saw a big crack. One of the ballisters was pulling away from the wall. I snapped the photo, showed a couple persons and I said this is strange,” Douglas said.

Douglas went to the HLDC on Sept. 8 and 9 to report about cracks that she observed in the house, including between the patio and the rest of the structure.

“When we had this rain now (on Friday), I actually was scared. I shifted stuff from the middle room to a third room and me and daughter slept in that room,” Douglas said, adding that she was uneasy all night.

There was heavy rain in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Friday “associated with the interaction of a tropical wave and a trough system”, and forecasters said flash floods could occur as soils were already saturated.

The house after and before it collapsed. (IWN photos)
The house after and before it collapsed. (IWN photos)

Meanwhile, General Manager of the HLDC, Elvis Charles, told reporters separately on Saturday that he would like “to sympathise with the owner of this house.

“Last week, she came to my office and I got to know her, because she was just talking about general things that she may want us at HLDC to assist her with, and I did promise her that we will come to her aid or any homeowner in Clare Valley what they want at this time,” he said.

Charles said the collapse of the house is “a very unfortunate situation.

“I have never seen this before,” he said, and speculated that there must have been some shifting in the soil, adding that this is not a fault of HLDC’s.

He further told reporters that the columns collapse because of the because of the shifting of the soil the columns couldn’t support the weight of the house, and the structure collapsed.

“We always try to maintain strict building codes. In fact, our engineers and our STO (Senior Technical Officer) Mr. Fidel Rose, he is a young person, but someone who has experience in building and   is very knowledgeable; he always asks for the assistance of (Chief Engineer) Mr. Brent Bailey…” Charles further said of Rose, a civil engineer.

“And what we intend to do, we are going to use this as an example to all of us, every builder in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Charles said.

He noted that the HLDC is building more houses in Green Hill under the government’s housing initiative.

“And it is really not too late. We are going to observe, we are going to listen to the engineers, listen to their assessments and try to see how well, how best we can construct houses in the future.”

Another view of the house. (IWN photo)
Another view of the house. (IWN photo)

Asked to respond to comments that the house collapse because of poor construction, Charles said:

“I wouldn’t really go down that route.”

He said HLDC’s engineers will conduct an assessment. “We are going to look at their work, look at what they present then try to come up our own conclusions,” Charles said.

But he said Douglas was not the only homeowner who had complained that their houses had been shaking.

“A few people have come to HLDC and have spoken about shaking in houses. I remember when we got those reports, we asked for the assistance of the Cuban engineers and we did a geo-tech study here and it was found that many of the complains of persons were not really sound.

“I am not saying that some may not have cause to be a little alarmed, but the study that we have clearly shows that there was really nothing to worry about. What I can say, we are human beings. If one of us is to complain about a particular situation, sometimes, it has a domino effect. Others will say it is happening to me too…” said Charles, a former teacher who become head of the HLDC just about a year ago, after the death of engineer Morris Slater.

But homeowners have also complained about the lack of drainage for rainwater from their roofs.

“I am going to speak with the officials of the HLDC … We are going to look into all of that, to see whether the persons who have complained have basis for complaining,” Charles said.

5 replies on “Owner of house that collapsed complained about shaking 2 months earlier”

  1. I am not an structural engineer but I ask a friend of mine who is and he said that on a location like that, the best things you can do are:

    1. Drill a few holes about 10 feet deep and send down concrete and place the house foundation on top of them, almost like a table into the ground.
    2. Dig out the location for the house and build into the mountain, with added support of steel and concrete a few feet deep.
    or
    3. Don’t build at that site at all. (And this point he was most serious about)

    Basically what he is saying, is that the terrain is so sloping and combined with the revelation of the soil composition and the fact that a house in the middle fell so easily, that if you are going to build there, you have to do it properly or don’t do it at all. So it seems the rest of them are in danger of falling and it’s not a matter of if, but when.

    What a fine mess we have created here, I am asking the authorities please make structural modifications to the house to try and bring them up to code, and if you can’t just knock them down. People’s lives are at stake here, and our hospitals are not equips to handle injuries of this scale.

  2. This is sad news for anyone involved and I sincerely wish them all the best in the future.

    I would however like to point out two things, supported by definitions below

    Low-income housing
    “Generically, any housing that is limited to occupancy by persons whose family income does not exceed certain pre-set maximum levels.”

    Physician
    “A person skilled in the art of healing; specifically: one educated, clinically experienced, and licensed to practice medicine as usually distinguished from surgery”

    I do not know of many countries (besides our lovely little gem of course) where a physician can or will be classified in the low income bracket.
    Relative to general population income, I would assume that Physicians in SVG still make a healthy income.

    Of course I stand to be corrected. And by all means, please let me know if we are now in such a state that even Physicians struggle to make it by in our little rose bush.

    Glibness aside; should these schemes not concentrate on helping the lower strata of our little economy?

    There is another way.

  3. How could a physician qualify for a low- or middle-income home?

    I have long heard rumours about the politically-motivated allocation of homes in this programme and have personal knowledge of a debt-free woman with no dependents or children who spent her entire adult life overseas and who retired with a company pension, two government pensions, thousands in personal savings, and the proceeds of the house she owned overseas.

    Because of political connections, she was allocated one of these houses when she came home to live though her entire income and net worth likely would have placed her is the upper class of Vincentian society.

    Remember, this woman spent her entire adult working life overseas and made no contribution to Vincentian society because all her family was either dead or also were living overseas.

    When people like this get preferential treatment, it means that truly needy people are victimized in the process for the “sin” of supporting the party in opposition or failing to have the proper connections.

  4. See what a problem can be caused when the whole project is based on politics. You have a teacher who is not a qualified building or civil engineer, talking about things that he has no knowledge of whatsever.

    Then you have builders who are the offspring of old MNU Marxist monsters, given such large projects that they have no real experience of.

    One thing we can be absolutly sure of is this is another ULP created crisis. The first real earth tremmor or quake that we have, you can be sure that these houses build on stilts/columns on unstable ground will all fall down.

    Have you noticed that everything they touch appears to be cursed?

    You will notice the house has not been subject to a land slip, it still sits on its original location, what failed were the stilts/columns.

    Steel re-bar content within the columns, steel size and how the steel was tied together within the columns requires urgent investigation. Because if that is wrong then you can bet your life someone has shortcut the specification and all those houses are at risk and are potential death traps. The quality of the columns cast concrete requires urgent laboritory testing for strength and content. Did they use a viberating poker when pouring the columns? And the footings within which the columns were based, need urgent investigation for dug depths and stability of the base of the holes in which the columns were placed. Trying to talk a whole load of mumbo jumbo at this juncture should stop, its quite possible that most of the tests can be carried out within 72 hours. Sitting back and doing nothing is potentialy puting all the other mid to upper class house occupiers at risk.

    The concrete can easily be tested at the Argyle airport, who have a concrete testing section within their laboritory.

    But if I was one of the house owners I would club together with the other owners, and get yourselves a specialist qualified engineer out of Trinidad or Barbados to inspect and report. Because by what Charles says I believe they will try and shurk responsability in the matter.

    I say mid to upper class because these houses are not lower class or any class below mid to upper class. These houses were built as reward to ULP supporters and followers.

    Elvis Charles you need a spokesman, and the company needs to big up and admit that the colapse of this building is their fault. Whilst you talk crap about something that you know little or nothing about, you make yourself, the comapany and the ULP, look bigger prats than you all are.

  5. A written and spoke statement by Ralph Gonsalves in 2011, that clearly shows most of what he told us about the NCB bank was a bundle of lies, an untruth told to all Vincentian citizens. He told us that the NCB bank was never in better condition and it had been groomed to sell, and selling it was a masterstroke on his part.

    The killer liar content for Gonsalves is the following which contradicts the stories that he told us that the sale of the bank was a master stroke on his part.

    “(a) The Financial Stabilisation Loan to assist the Government in the divestment of the National Commercial Bank (NCB). This loan aided in dealing successfully with the liquidity problems at the NCB and in reducing our debt servicing costs. We know now, that the assistance of the CDB in this special case PBL, not only averted the collapse of the NCB, but provided stability to the financial sector in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and by extension, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU)”.

    STATEMENT BY
    THE GOVERNOR FOR
    ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
    DR. THE HONOURABLE RALPH E. GONSALVES
    Mr. Chairman, President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Fellow Governors, Directors, Observers, Staff of the CDB, Ladies and Gentlemen.
    It is an especial pleasure for me to be here in the twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago to attend this Forty-first Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the CDB. As most of you may know, Trinidad and Tobago is home to many of our Vincentian nationals, and I thank the Government and people of this, their adopted homeland, for welcoming them to your shores and for the similar warmth and exceptional hospitality extended to my delegation since our arrival for these meetings.

    Mr. Chairman, in responding to your warm Welcome Address yesterday, I noted some challenges confronting the Region that are worth repeating. Over the last decade, our Caribbean Region has had to confront immense socio-economic challenges arising largely from circumstances not of our own making. To be sure, there is home-grown crime and violence, but the trade in small arms emanating from the United States of America and the trafficking in illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, has come to us as a transit point from outside so as to satisfy mainly North American and European consumers. Additionally, there is a bundle of political, administrative, and even cultural constraints which retard our Region’s development. However, it is undoubtedly true that the battering which our economies and societies have been receiving over the past ten years has its twin origins externally from the deleterious impact of external political and economic forces and from the ravages of nature.

    In addition to all the disasters, whether these are man-made or natural, we have witnessed again, the recent rise in oil prices again, and hikes in commodity prices especially for staple foods such as rice, flour, and sugar. Indeed, in the case of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we can properly speak of a “special period” of challenges, unprecedented in their scope: the awesome impact of the global financial and economic dislocations; rising commodity prices, and back-to-back natural disasters in the events of Hurricane Tomas on October 30, 2010, and the freak rainstorm and landslides, of almost biblical proportions, in the north-east of St. Vincent, in the midst of the so-called “dry season”. Climate change, a matter of existential concern to us, makes a mockery nowadays of traditional seasons.

    In all of this, the Caribbean economies have had the good fortune of benefitting from a stable and strong regional development bank in the CDB whose role has been critical in keeping our countries steady amidst these crises.

    Now that the international financial, and economic slow-down has begun to ease in some countries, tentatively and unevenly, we here in the Caribbean continue to look to the CDB for a response by the Bank to assist its Borrowing Member Countries in ensuring that this recovery and growth reach our shores and take real traction for us. This can be achieved with continued examination and the ongoing evaluation of the operational instruments of the Bank, including the relatively new and fast-disbursing Policy-based Loan (PBL). Such examinations should strive to achieve synergies between the objectives and mandate of the Bank, and the expectations and demand of the member countries.

    Certainly, my country, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has benefited by the Bank’s rapid response in the approval of two loans during 2010.

    (a) The Financial Stabilisation Loan to assist the Government in the divestment of the National Commercial Bank (NCB). This loan aided in dealing successfully with the liquidity problems at the NCB and in reducing our debt servicing costs. We know now, that the assistance of the CDB in this special case PBL, not only averted the collapse of the NCB, but provided stability to the financial sector in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and by extension, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU).

    (b) The Hurricane Tomas Immediate Response Loan to assist in the cleanup operations after the onslaught of Hurricane Tomas.

    Mr. Chairman, our people’s resilience and our capacity to endure hardships or creatively adapt to the most difficult conditions have been able to see us, thus far, through this “special period”. Thus, notwithstanding the negative growth in our economy in 2009 and 2010, we have continued with the ECCU’s Eight Point Growth and Stabilisation Strategy. We expect further that the deepening of our sub-regional integration process, through the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States into an economic union provides a strategic framework for recovery, growth, and stabilisation. In this process, we need the continued cooperation and support of the CDB and our other development partners in this extraordinary effort.

    Further, each country has certain specific constraints which demand ongoing attention. In the case of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, our thrust for further expansion of tourism is, in part, constrained by the absence of an international airport. Currently, we are building one at Argyle on mainland St. Vincent. It is due to be completed by the end of 2013. It is the largest capital project by far, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, since conquest and settlement. Imagine building such a project during this “special period”, a project which includes, for starters, the making low of three mountains, the filling of three valleys, the spanning of a river, the removal of a church and a cemetery, the dismantling and rebuilding elsewhere of 130 middle-income houses, and the making of sea defences. But given our country’s topography and circumstances, there is no other feasible alternative. Our development partners cannot stand askance from our construction of this necessary and desirable infrastructure.

    Mr. Chairman, I wish to sincerely thank Dr. Compton Bourne for his outstanding leadership and dedicated service to the Bank and to this Region, during difficult times. I continue to wish him well in his future endeavours.

    Finally, Mr. Chairman, I congratulate his successor Dr Warren Smith on his assumption of Presidency of the Bank. I am confident that under his guidance, the Bank will continue to grow and develop into an institution of which we can continue to be proud.
    Very best wishes to you for a successful meeting.

    Very best wishes to you for a successful meeting.

    Why? Why tell us load of untrue crap, we seek the truth, it appears to me that Gonsalves is simply incapable of telling us the truth. This statement is something written by him, not something written by someone else.

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