7 December 2012

Namibia: Police Probe Bomb Claims in Mall Collapse

Oshakati — Following unconfirmed reports that an explosion caused the deadly shopping mall collapse in Ondangwa, police have sent a team of forensic investigators to the site.

By yesterday afternoon a team from Windhoek, joined by local investigators, were still at the site of the collapse sifting through rubble looking for clues in the complex that housed Pick 'n Pay Ondangwa.

Bank Windhoek has since announced that they have relocated to First City Centre, since the building was damaged. Several businesses located nearby have also relocated since the collapse of a wall in the shopping mall.

A woman and a child were killed, while three others were injured after the wall collapsed within the shop on Sunday.

Unconfirmed rumours have it that explosives were planted at the complex in order to blow up a Bank Windhoek ATM machine, which is separated from Pick 'n Pay by a wall. It is alleged that the explosive was timed to go off at 11pm.

ATM bombings are a common occurrence in neighbouring South Africa where bank robbers often use explosives to blow up ATMs to access the hard cash. "We have picked up that rumour, but it remains a rumour until investigations are finalised. It is for that reason that the Inspector General (Sebastian Ndeitunga) has sent a team of competent forensic investigators to investigate," explained Oshana Police Regional Commander, Commissioner Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa.

According to Kashihakumwa police launched an investigation based on claims by residents that they heard a loud explosion shortly before the brick wall came tumbling down. "Others are claiming that the bang was due to the impact of the wall's collapse. But as I said earlier, it all remains rumours until investigations are finalised," reiterated Kashihakumwa.

Meanwhile, the Ondangwa Town Council is pointing fingers to the developer of the building which is barely two years old. The developer allegedly failed to comply with the standards as stipulated by the Ondangwa Town Council, allegedly did not build according to the building plan submitted to the town council, and allegedly refused to stop when he was asked to stop with the construction.

Also, the property owners allegedly went ahead and had a building leased out despite the fact that the town council refused to issue them with a fitness certificate, which would have allowed them to operate legally, according to Ondangwa Town Council spokesman, Luke Salomo.

According to Salomo a similar incident happened in June, when a construction employee was electrocuted in the Punyu Complex, which housed Woermann Brock Ondangwa.

The owners of the complex allegedly blatantly ignored the council's warnings and directives to halt construction, because it turned out that a power cable ran below the complex under construction at the time.

Salomo said these two were the only incidents where developers ignored the instructions of the town council's building inspectors to halt construction work and in both cases, sadly lives were lost, said Salomo.

According to Salomo, there are talks that Pick 'n Pay will help with the funeral arrangements of the deceased. "That is positive information that we have. But whether the victims will be compensated or not, that is between the owners of the building, Pick 'n Pay and the relatives of the victims. Maybe families would want to sue, but it has nothing to do with the Ondangwa Town Council," said Salomo.

New Era could not get hold of the owner of the building to get his version of events.

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