Angola's decrepit buildings raise safety concerns

Fri Jan 30, 2009 8:49am EST
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By Henrique Almeida

LUANDA (Reuters Life!) - A famous Angolan novelist once wrote about a curse that was causing buildings in the capital to fall down one by one, baffling its politicians and engineers.

The story by Pepetela was fiction, of course, but some fear it may well turn out to be true if authorities fail to restore or remove scores of buildings across Luanda that remain unfinished or in a poor state of repair.

Last year, a police headquarters building in downtown Luanda crumbled, killing 30 people inside. Now, thousands of residents of buildings referred to as "Shake Shake," "Dirty Marcal" or the "Lake Building" fear they could be next.

"I want out," said Eurico, 15, as he rushed from his doorless apartment on the ground floor of the 17-storey Lake Building, which is located on Luanda's main Kinaxixe square and has a natural underground spring beneath it.

"We are sitting on a lake. That's what makes living in this building so dangerous," Eliseu Laurindo, who represents all 700 residents of the Lake Building, told Reuters.

Like many old buildings in Luanda, the Lake Building has no windows, running water, or even terrace walls to keep residents from falling into the mix of spring water and sewage around it.

The building even has a rusty 120 meter tall crane attached to one side, which was left behind by the builders when Angola's civil war broke out in 1975.

The almost three-decade-long civil war prompted millions of Angolans from the countryside to flee to Luanda in search of shelter and protection -- boosting the number of residents in a city built for 500,000 to over five million.   Continued...

<p>Children play on the streets of Angola's capital Luanda in this file photo from July 2, 2006.REUTERS/Wayne Conradie</p>