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Shanghai blames unbalanced groundwork for building collapse, promises severe penalties
Updated: 2009-07-03 17:00

Shanghai authorities on Friday announced the technical causes for the collapse last Saturday of an apartment building under construction, saying whoever was found responsible for the deadly accident would be "severely penalized".

The "Lotus Riverside" compound of Minhang District collapsed because its groundwork was unbalanced with piles of earth mounting on its northern side, and a 4.6-meter-deep pit on its south where an underground garage was being built, a municipal government spokesman said Friday.

"We have verified all the specifics of the building, including its original survey report, designs as well as the structure and building materials of its foundation, all of which met requirements set by the state," said spokesman Chen Qiwei at a press conference Friday.

He said other buildings under construction in the same area were seemingly unaffected. "We don't think similar accidents will happen again."

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But Huang Rong, director of Shanghai Urban Construction and Communications Commission, said "seemingly unaffected" could not guarantee the other buildings were safe. "We will soon begin a safety overhaul on 10 buildings in the adjacent area."

Chen said investigators had wrapped up a probe into the cause of the accident, and work safety authorities would lead the next round of the investigation, which would focus on who was responsible for the accident.

"Whoever is found responsible for the accident will be severely penalized in accordance with relevant laws and regulations," said Xie Liming, Shanghai's safety chief and head of the investigation team.

The ill-fated building collapsed early last Saturday, killing a worker who had gone into the site to fetch his tools.

Authorities in Shanghai said late Tuesday they were investigating the identities of shareholders of the developer, following media reports saying some shareholders of Shanghai Meidu Real Estate were local government officials.

The property development company was run by the Meilong Township between 1995 and 2001 and became a private company in 2001, official records showed.

Que Jinde, former chairman of the company, serves as assistant chief of the township government and holds a 15-percent stake in the company. Some other shareholders also work in the township government agencies.

More than 380 homeowners are demanding refunds or compensation and the district government has pledged to protect the legitimate rights and interests of the owners.

The developer had been stopped the sale of homes following the collapse. It had sold out 489 of 629 homes.

The municipal government Tuesday ordered a sweeping quality inspection of buildings and infrastructure under construction in Shanghai.

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