Wellawatte building collapse:
Police to question owner, contractors

Trapped worker calls friends; more muffled voices of humans and canines heard

By Norman Palihawadane

Police have told The Island that they will question the owner and two contractors of the six storeyed building which collapsed at Wellawatte yesterday injuring 26 persons.  

The building housing Excellency Banquet Hall located near Savoy Cinema on Charlemont Road had collapsed around 11.00 am, police said, adding that the injured had been rushed to the National Hospital and Colombo South Teaching Hospital.

Twelve persons had been admitted to the Colombo South Hospital, Director of the Hospital, Dr Asela Gunaratne said.  

Police, tri-forces and firemen were rushed to the scene amidst heavy rains to rescue victims of the tragedy and to help evacuate residents in the immediate vicinity of the collapsed building as it was sinking.  

The injured said that the tragedy had struck as the building was being renovated in view of a wedding ceremony scheduled to be held there next week. 

The police said they would question the owner of the building, its former and new contractors to ascertain who was responsible for the disaster and legal action would be instituted against the culprits.

The owner of the building is out of the country. At the time the collapse occurred construction work was in progress to add a couple of new storeys to the building. Wellawatte Police said that they suspected the foundation had caved in due to the additional weight.

Police declared the nearby area out of bounds for people as there could be danger from falling debris.

Muffled sounds of dogs and humans trapped under the rubble of the building could be heard, police said, adding that the heavy downpour had made the rescue operation significantly harder. 

Heavy traffic was in the area near the disaster, where fire fighters, police and the military personnel were desperately trying to free all individuals trapped under the rubble.

Police said a person trapped under the rubble of the building had made a call using his mobile asking his fellow workers to rescue him and operations were in progress to find those trapped.


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