Street collapse reveals bad quality of Hanoi projects

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A seven-meter sinkhole on Le Van Luong Street in Ha Dong District, Hanoi, August 19. The street was built in April 2009 and completed in 2010 for Hanoi's 1,000th birthday celebration.

A seven-meter deep sinkhole that appeared on major Hanoi thoroughfare Le Van Luong Street, built to celebrate Hanoi's 1,000th birthday in 2010, has terrified local residents, but they said they were not surprised.

The street collapsed, leaving the giant hole, at around 7:30 a.m. Sunday (August 19).

Le Van Luong is only one of many trillion-dong projects built for the millennial celebration that deteriorated soon after completion.

The sinkhole grew to 10 meters in length and six to seven meters in depth.

Le Van Luong Street, which runs 2,7 km through the Duong Noi New Urban Area in Van Phuc Commune, Ha Dong District, was then closed as a safety measure.

The street cost VND676 billion (US$32.4 million) to build. Construction began in April 2009 and wrapped up in October 2010.

The road was built to become one of the capital's main arteries and was considered a key project in the run-up to Hanoi's anniversary celebration.

Other projects built for the event have suffered the same fate.

Thang Long Highway, which opened to traffic in October 2010, developed cracks and potholes in April last year.

In May last year, dozens of cracks emerged in the surface of a tunnel section of the highway.

The same thing happened to Vinh Tuy Bridge and Hoa Binh Park. The Vinh Tuy Bridge cost up to VND5.5 trillion ($264 million) and was opened in late 2009. Now cracks plague the surface of the bridge, which is uneven at parts sunken and at others almost hilly.

Meanwhile, the Hoa Binh (Peace) Park started to degrade only 10 days after the birthday celebration. Stones used to pave the foundation and build walls surrounding the park have gradually begun to crumble.

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The Hanoi Museum, built at the cost of around VND3 trillion ($144 million), was also regarded as a key project to welcome Hanoi's new millennium. But the museum has been busy fixing leaks and making other repairs ever since the ribbon was cut.

On some floors, nothing is on display inside the museum's showcase glass-covered tables.

Since 2010, the museum has attracted only around 130,000 arrivals. Meanwhile, smaller museums in Hanoi like the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology attracted 500,000 arrivals in 2010-2011.

Blame game

So far, no one has admitted to being responsible for the collapse of Le Van Luong Street.

In a heated debate Monday (August 20), Tran Oanh, general director of Nam Cuong Group the builder of the street said doubting the quality of the construction was "out of the question."

He blamed the collapse on torrential rains and improper construction of foundations in nearby buildings built by the Song Da-Thang Long Joint Stock Company.

He said faulty construction of the foundations of two roadside buildings caused an underground landslide, which, combined with recent torrential rains, caused underground water pipes to break and leak - resulting in the hole in the road.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Tri Dung, chairman of Song Da-Thang Long Joint Stock Company, said his firm's construction plans had been approved and were being followed strictly.

There was evidence proving that the underground pipes and sewers had been damaged, so water had flooded the road and nearby building foundations, he said.

The Hanoi Transport Department officials said in a meeting Tuesday that the sinkhole was formed as a consequence of recent torrential rains caused by tropical storm Kai-Tak, arguing that rains eroded the surface of the street and broke underground water pipes.

The department asked Nam Cuong Group to open a bypass while seeking solutions to the problem.

The Song Da-Thang Long Company was asked to reinforce the foundation of the street to avoid more collapses.

A construction expert, who requested anonymity, told Vietweek the problem might have been that the Thang Long Highway was "forced" to open to traffic "at any cost" to meet its deadline for the 1,000th birthday party.

He said this was indeed the cause of problems at Vinh Tuy Bridge and Hoa Binh Park.

Hanoi authorities, meanwhile, have denied allegations that projects built for the occasion were faulty.

Nguyen Hoai Nam, chief of the Hanoi People's Council's Legal Committee, cited a report by the Construction Department as saying that all these projects were still in the "maintenance" stage.

"There are no big problems which affect the quality and structure of the projects," Nam said.

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