It was 8 p.m. last Wednesday when part of a building with 55 homes in a tourist urbanization in the Castellón town of Peñíscola collapsed in just a few seconds, as if it were a house of cards, trapping three people, all of them residents in the same apartment: a 26-year-old young man who was rescued alive at dawn from Wednesday to Thursday and who remains admitted to the ICU of the Vinaròs hospital, a 14-year-old teenager from Morella whose lifeless body was recovered on Thursday morning and a woman, whose lifeless body was found under the rubble on Thursday afternoon by rescue teams (140 personnel have worked in rescue tasks).
The causes of the collapse, which affected eighteen homes and forced the 300 residents who lived in the building to relocate, are still unknown. As recognized by the General Director of Quality and Rehabilitation of the Housing Department, Alberto Rubio, in statements to the Efe agency, the building fell “very quickly” and “cascading”. According to Rubio, one of the load-bearing walls collapsed, dragging the floors and pushing the rest of the walls “like a kind of domino effect.”
“It is a system in which a vertical structure of load-bearing walls is built with blocks and, on that structure, the slab with joists and vaults is built, in which, if certain precautions are not taken, such as elements perpendicular to the walls can cause this type of collapse “, he pointed out to add that the age of the construction, three decades, is very little” for something like this to have happened. ” The president of the Generalitat Valenciana, Ximo Puig, acknowledged that, once the woman who remains trapped under the rubble is rescued, “it will be possible to advance in the analysis of the causes of the collapse”, a sinister that is investigated by the Judicial Police of the Civil Guard, as well as in the structural analysis of the rest of the buildings in the urbanization.
The residents of the building, which dated from the late 80s or early 90s of the last century, have been rehoused in family homes and tourist facilities, while looking for a more long-term housing solution, as recognized by President Puig and the Vice President and Minister of Housing, Rubén Martínez Dalmau, during their visit to Peñíscola this Thursday.
Building collapse, increasingly frequent
Researcher José Miguel Adam warns that collapses, such as the one that collapsed the building in Peñíscola, are “increasingly frequent” and their main causes are aging, climate change and human action. Member of the Institute of Concrete Science and Technology of the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Citech-UPV), he assures in statements to Efe that, at 30 years of age, “it cannot be said that the building (in Peñíscola) may present symptoms of aging” , although it must be taken into account that it is very close to the coast and “the marine environment for any construction does not help and accelerates the corrosion process of the concrete horseshoes”.
He explains that the type of construction “is not the most common, consisting of beam-column frameworks on which the floors rest”, but is a “different concept, although equally valid, characterized by load-bearing walls on which the floors rest. horizontal elements, which are where people live. ”
From the photographs he has seen, Adam confirms that “there has been an initial damage in one area, which has spread to the rest of the construction. This is what is called a progressive collapse, which is a domino effect.”
“What now we have to find out is why this initial failure in the construction has occurred. When we work with this type of collapse, the causes come from a terrorist or gas explosion, vehicle impact … but here this has not happened. and we will have to go further and see what has happened “, he highlights.
According to the researcher, “it could be said that the initial failure could have been located in any of the bearing walls, either due to a foundation problem, since there have been recent rains, or a problem of construction detail and that the union between horizontal elements and the bearing wall is not adequate “, although that in his opinion would be” venturing a lot “.