By Sarah Thomas
Engineers are assessing a high-rise unit block in the Sydney suburb of Mascot that was evacuated on Friday night after cracks were found in the building’s car park.
Hundreds of residents had to find alternative accommodation with friends and family or pay for hotels and it is not known when they will be able to return.
Building managers initially said about 70 per cent of the units would need to be evacuated, but that was later changed to the whole building.
What do we know about the cracks?
Mascot Towers, at 1-5 Bourke Street, is 10 years old and features 131 units across two towers in a complex which also includes ground-floor shops and restaurants.
In a letter from building management sent out on Friday night, residents were told an engineer inspected cracking that had developed in the “transfer slab beams supporting the primary building corner”.
“Following this inspection, the engineer has raised concerns over the safety for residents in the building,” the letter read.
In a notice from the apartment block’s strata on June 13, residents were told about the installation of temporary building props in the carpark.
“This is in response to an ongoing and persistent cracking and structural deformation observed within the primary support structure and the facade masonry,” the notice read.
“This deterioration has been rapid, hence expedited propping was deemed a necessary precaution to ensure the safety of the building and its occupants.”
Residents were told to evacuate by 9pm on Friday night and emergency services were called to assist with the situation.
What’s happening now?
The assistant commissioner of operational capability from Fire and Rescue NSW, Roger Mentha, said engineers were inspecting the building and that could take days.
“At this stage, the engineers need to look at the cracks in those beams while the residents aren’t there,” he said.
“Then they can do an analysis on whether there have been any movements.
“Then they will be able to give further advice to the residents about how long it will take to rectify.”
Local MP Ron Hoenig said there was a preliminary view the cracks may be related to the construction of a new building next door to Mascot Towers.
“That building is completed but it has not yet even been occupied and then all of a sudden cracks start developing in the basement of this building,” he said.
“It’s just suspicious when you get that cracking.”
Where are the residents?
A temporary shelter for the building’s residents has been set up at Mascot Town Hall.
The building’s strata committee has told residents that in anticipation of not being able to access their apartments they should seek alternative accommodation.
It also said it was unknown at this stage whether there would be any insurance coverage for temporary accommodation.
Has this happened before?
Just six months ago another Sydney apartment building was evacuated after cracks were found.
A number of cracks were identified in the 36-storey Opal Tower in Sydney’s Olympic Park on Christmas Eve last year, forcing the evacuation of 3,000 residents from its 392 units.
That building was completed in August 2018.
Engineers said there had been movement of the building and an exclusion zone around the property was set up as a precaution in the event of a collapse.
The Berejiklian Government said in response it would tighten regulation of building certifiers, including conducting audits and banning certifiers found to have signed off structurally unsound buildings.
A report into the complex found it had been constructed with “lower-strength concrete” and “under-designed” support beams which left them prone to bursting.
In April, the chairman of the owners’ corporation, Shady Eskander, said it would likely be months before residents in the affected apartments would be allowed to return.