“Everyone is stunned … no-one has an explanation.”
It is not the answer you want to hear from a developer when explaining a major structural deficiency in a 30-plus storey residential tower in suburban Sydney.
But Bassam Aflak, the director of Ecove — the company behind the Opal Tower development — fronted the cameras today to try and explain why hundreds of families have been kicked out of their homes for the Christmas break.
And, like most people in this now five-day saga, he didn’t have an answer.
“The structural engineers are quite surprised,” he said.
“They [the buildings] just don’t do these sorts of things.”
A crack in a concrete panel on the tenth floor of a $165 million apartment development — sparking an evacuation and initial fears the Opal Tower itself might collapse — isn’t supposed to happen in Australia.
As the experts will attest, this is a country with stringent building codes and strong checks and balances for new developments.
The Opal Tower building itself only opened its doors in August.
Part of a wave of apartment developments in western Sydney since the beginning of the decade to address the city’s dire housing shortage, Opal Tower is one of many residential towers that now litter the western suburbs.
Thousands of families who bought into these apartment complexes must quietly be asking themselves about the quality of their own developments.
At Opal Tower, hundreds of residents paid good money — some almost $1 million — to buy into the development, which is proudly advertised as on the Ecove website as “brilliant from every aspect”.
Others were renting or even having a short holiday through Airbnb.
And although engineers have guaranteed the building is structurally sound, the cause of the fault is still not yet known.
“What’s it come to in Sydney in the 21st century when people are saying they feel unsafe in their homes?” NSW Labor leader Michael Daley asked today.
“People were doorknocked by people they don’t know, who said: ‘Get out of your house, you might be out for 10 days’.
“‘We don’t know when you’re coming back, se ya later’.”
Mr Daley stopped short of suggesting the Opal Tower situation could be symptomatic of broader quality-control problem in the industry, but finished his press conference by suggesting there were “more questions to answer” from the industry.
By appointing two highly experienced engineers to conduct an independent investigation into Opal Tower, NSW Government will argue it is doing all it can to address the issue at hand.
Meanwhile the builders, developer and engineers behind the project are about to kick off a 10-day “comprehensive investigation” into the crack — the investigation that sparked yesterday’s second evacuation.
They are now breaking down walls to find the source of the problem, and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
But for residents packing their bags to evacuate their home for a second time this Christmas break, it will come as cold comfort.
“We’re not feeling very safe here,” resident Kerry Rouhihi, who rents an apartment with his partner, said today.
“We just want to get out.”