Jul 11, 2014

Vietnam - Living under ‘water bombs’ in Vietnam

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Water reservoirs weighing up to a ton each and built on the top of houses and apartment buildings for daily use have exposed great hazards for residents in Vietnam in recent years.

The ton-heavy ‘water bombs’ that fell down as a result of rusty stands or other malfunctions have reportedly claimed many lives in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Despite admitting its hazards, the head of a city planning department of a district in Ho Chi Minh City, confessed that there is now no legal document to manage or rule the construction and installment of these hazardous water tanks.

“A private house owner doesn’t need to present a technical drawing for building a water tank,” he said. “But it requires having technical papers for building it on a multi-level private building or any apartment building.”

A brief survey by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper journalists showed that the installment of water tanks on the top of houses and buildings is mostly unprompted and fails to conform to any regulation.

In 2012, in northern Vinh Phuc Province, Nguyen Thi Mam, a 79-year-old woman, was crushed to death when a 1,000 liter water tank fell down from the roof of her bathroom.

In 2011, in Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Van Len, 21, was killed on site when a 500 liter water tank fell and pinned him down when he was working for Truong Vui Garment Company located on Thoai Ngoc Hau Street in Tan Phu District. His colleague Le Van Hau, 26, was also seriously injured in the accident.

Terrace space for water tanks

The public space on the terrace of the 316 Phu Hoa Tenement in Ward 8 of Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Binh District has 20 water tanks, each containing 500 to 1,500 liters of water.

Though the apartment has a public reservoir on the roof, each family installs their own water tanks as a reserve measure.

Dang Van Tai, a resident of the apartment, said, “It will certainly pose a problem in the long run.”

The extra weight of dozens of private water tanks on the public terrace may cause it to become damaged or to even collapse.

“I am worried about this because this tenement was built before 1975,” said a resident.

Year after year, apartments under the terrace have suffered water absorption from above.

At the Thanh Da Apartments in Binh Thanh District, hundreds of families have been living under similar ‘water bombs.’

Many owners of private houses ignore their own safety by installing water tanks on unfit stands.

A man living on Do Tan Phong Street in Phu Nhuan District admitted that, “It’s easy to install a water tank, and no problems are likely to occur. It’s the installation of electricity that is difficult.”

Many other private houses install water tanks on their balcony that juts out above the entrance gates. The tanks are simply bound to the wall by metallic ropes to prevent them from falling.

A contractor in Thu Duc District added that some house owners save money by welding scrap iron bars instead of using stainless steel to make the stands.

Architect Nguyen Xuan Thang in Ho Chi Minh City said each square meter of the terrace can sustain a total weight of 700kg, so it is acceptable, in technical terms, to place water tanks on terraces.

But it is a risk to install a water tank on the balcony or on unqualified stands, he added. Steel used to support a water tank must be stainless and 4-5mm thick.

A leader of a construction department in Hanoi admitted this is an important issue, directly relating to the safety of people, but authorities have no legal document on the standards of installing a tank.

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