Troubled tower block is ‘moving downward’
SYDNEY'S Mascot Towers appears to be "moving in a downward motion", according to the building's co-ordinating engineer.
The 10-year-old building was evacuated on June 14 after engineers became concerned about continued cracking in the primary support structure and facade masonry.
Since then, residents of its 132 units have been forced to sleep elsewhere, with costs quickly adding up as authorities scramble to determine who is at fault. Mascot Towers' co-ordinating engineer has now identified a new issue along the northern and eastern boundaries of the complex.
"It appears that the building is moving in a downward motion," an update sent to residents and owners on Monday night said.
The update didn't elaborate on "downward motion".
Two senior geotechnical engineers have been engaged and are visiting the site this week with help from Engineers Australia, the update said. Internal monitoring has been expanded, while equipment to measure external movement has been set up on Church Ave and Bourke Road.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has dodged questions over whether residents who fled Mascot Towers will eventually have to repay a loan from the government to fund emergency accommodation.
The state government on Sunday announced a multimillion-dollar assistance package "until liability can be determined and these costs recovered". The package offers one-off emergency loans to cover up to $400 per night for temporary accommodation, for a period of up to three months. But it remains unclear what will happen if no one is found to be at fault or if insurance claims aren't paid out.
When asked to guarantee that residents themselves won't have to pay the money back, Ms Berejiklian said the government was "working through those issues". "The engineers haven't yet finished their assessments," she said. The money for the loans will come from the interest accumulated in the NSW Government's rental bonds fund.
On Sunday, dozens of residents were granted access to the most dangerous parts of the building which had previously been deemed inaccessible since the evacuation.
Many residents spent hours at their homes before they fled the troubled building. A tenant told news.com.au they were aware of the Opal Tower residents' predicament, where people have not been inside their apartments for over six months.
Residents were seen removing beds and pianos from the troubled site, while security guards directed the tenants and owners past a large crack in the basement of the building.
"It's frustrating. We're still in shock. We're stressed," resident Edwina told news.com.au as she waited with boxes outside the apartment block.
"I only had 20 minutes to pack before (firefighters) rapped on the door and said, 'You have to go.'
"I first saw this happen to people in the Opal Tower. And now it's me," Edwina said.
An owner called news.com.au, claiming that before entering the building, residents were made to sign a waiver agreeing not to take photos. She said some residents had to hand over their phones.
The minister denied the loans system was setting a costly precedent for the government, calling the Mascot Towers situation a "one off".
He also rejected the suggestion that there were other buildings of concern in Sydney or across NSW, but suggested any resident with concerns report structural issues to their building manager.
- additional reporting by Phoebe Loomes.