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Fire dept lacks equipment to deal with high-rise accidents

Limassol skyscrapers

 

The fire department does not yet have the right equipment to deal with incidents on the higher storeys of Limassol’s high-rises, but Tuesday’s labour accident could have been easily resolved if the construction company had followed government safety regulations, the fire department said on Wednesday.

A 52-year-old construction worker on Limassol One high-rise on the Limassol coast road fell on Tuesday from a scaffolding 65 metres above ground level when he lost his balance and fell 1.5 metres to the floor below.

Though the worker suffered back injury, reports say he is out of danger.

Fire department spokesperson Andreas Kettis told Cybc on Wednesday that “the fire department’s intervention at such a height was impossible.”

The incident has revealed gaps in the fire service’s ability to effectively respond to incidents which occur on the higher floors of Limassol’s new tower buildings.

Initially, the fire department attempted to retrieve the injured worker through the use of hoisting equipment, which currently only reach as high as 30 metres, approximately 10 storeys. When it could not be hoisted high enough to reach the worker who was on the 17th floor, the crane of the private building company was used.

Kettis noted that the specific building plans to have around 30 floors, surpassing a height of 110 metres.

“In an under-construction building,” Kettis stressed, “there are certain terms laid out by the department of labour inspection that were not followed by the construction company, such as the need for a lift for the transfer of materials and persons.”

If the construction company had taken care to install a lift, Kettis said, retrieving the injured worker from that height would have been an easy task.

Instead, efforts to lower the worker to ground level where he could be administered first aid before being taken to the Limassol general hospital took the fire service, the emergency response special unit and the police around two hours.

Kettis said the department is planning to acquire a special hydraulic platform that reaches a height of 60 metres by 2020 to overcome the current inability to deal with incidents in the high-rises that are mushrooming in Limassol and elsewhere.

“The fire department is under consultation with the town planning and housing department to ensure that high-rises are only given construction licences if they provide the necessary space in their perimeter for the installation and hoisting of the hydraulic platform,” he added.

Kettis also said that once the high-rises are constructed, they must undergo a safety inspection by the fire service.

“The fire service has laid out very specific conditions for granting permits to high-rise developments, including strict measures of active and passive fire protection which both reduce the risk of fires occurring and spreading, and ensure the safe evacuation of occupants,” Kettis said.

These include the installation of a permanent water supply of at least 40 tonnes with continuous pressure, water coils on each floor, fire curtains and fire-resistant materials.

The high-rises have been a central point of concern and opposition for a number of local action groups and MPs.

While only two licences have been granted out of the 30 high-rise Limassol seafront applications that are pending authorisation, critics say serious environmental impacts are already noticeable in the sea.

In addition to concerns over the safety of the towers, deputy chairman of the House environmental committee Charalambos Theopemptou said last week that the high-rises are in violation of EU legislation, which requires a strategic environmental impact study.

Only following this study should projects be allowed to go ahead and under specified terms, he said, adding that such an assessment has not been carried out by the government.

 

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