No imminent danger for leaning Emilio Aguinaldo College building in Manila, engineers assure

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Engineers say it will take two weeks to a month to repair the damage to the building. Photo courtesy of Jhay Jalbuna

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 23) — An initial assessment of the building in Manila that appeared to have tilted on its side following a strong earthquake that hit parts of Luzon showed there is no imminent danger and repairs can be completed soon, structural engineers said Tuesday.

A magnitude 6.1 earthquake jolted Metro Manila and nearby provinces Monday afternoon resulting in one of the buildings of the Emilio Aguinaldo College in Paco, Manila to lean precariously on the structure adjacent to it. However, an assessment team compossed of private and local government structural engineers said there is no cause for alarm since the building’s structure remains intact.

“I don’t see any imminent danger, there’s no crack in the flooring, the elevator is working but we will make a complete assessment for this building,” said Gregory Serrano, an engineer who inspected the damaged building.

Serrano explained that the damage was confined to the terraces and the precast or the concrete that covers the building’s surface. He said that it will only take two weeks to a month to finish the repairs.

Angelo Tanbua, another structural engineer who examined the building, said the situation would be dangerous only if the structural elements of the building, such as its columns, were damaged.

Manila City engineer Rogelio Legaspi expressed doubt that the building tilted due to the lack of "telltale" signs such as dented windows.

"Wala namang telltale signs e...actually ang isang cause kapag may nakita kang slanting 'yung mga windows niya mga doors niya, all are in line pa rin...walang telltale signs ng failure ng structure pero I don't want to preempt 'yung result," Legaspi said.

[Translation: There are no telltale signs...actually one of the causes is if you see if the windows are dented but its doors are all still in line...there are no telltale signs to the failure of the structure but I don't want to preempt the result.]

“Visually parang intact yung building (the building seemed intact), no further hysteria or panic to be aware of right now. We are just being objective about it. We have to do yung (the) science-based na analysis before concluding anything,” Tanbua said.

Emilio Aguinaldo College President Paulo Campos said around one thousand students use the building. He said the Senior and Junior high school students were on their summer break while other students were in different buildings.

He assured that all students, staff and faculty were evacuated safely. He added that they would allow students to return to the building as soon as the engineers deem the structure safe. For the meantime, they will move classes to their other available facilities.

“The safety of students, staff and faculty comes before property so it would not be proper to put them at risk just to put a band-aid on any problem,” Campos said.

The public works and highways department had also cordoned off one of the lanes of the United Nations Avenue to “preclude any further impact on the building which may be caused by vehicles passing through the road.”

Close encounter

The building, Campos explained, was built in April 1997 initially beside a low-rise structure. Later, a high-rise building was constructed beside it that was too close to the school, he said.

“Noong nagconstruct na ‘yung katabi namin [when they constructed the building beside us], ang nangyari 'yung firewall nila [ what happened was their firewall] was right above our property line,” the school official said.

Michael Salalima, chief of staff of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority's Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, also noted that the two buildings had an alarming proximity to each other.

“Namention po kasi na prior to that medyo magkadikit na yung building na yan. What they are checking right now further is the effect of the earthquake since nagkisikisan po yung dalawang structure,” Salalima told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

[Translation: It was mentioned that the building were really close to each other. What they are checking right now further is the effect of the earthquake since the two structures were packed tightly together.]

Campos said they did not see any need to take action against the owners of the adjacent building despite its close proximity to the school.