PM on shaky ground

The site of the proposed children’s hospital.
The site of the proposed children’s hospital.

PORT OF SPAIN — Construction of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s prized $1.5 billion Couva Children’s Hospital is in jeopardy as seismic and structural experts have called for all work there to be aborted.

This is because the hospital and multi-training facility is being built near the Central Range earthquake fault line, which experts say is in danger of being hit by a major earthquake of 7.5 magnitude or above.

Seismologist Dr. Joan Lutchman, of the University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre confirmed that the present location of the hospital is in “close proximity” to the fault line and suggested the construction should be halted.

Lutchman said a new location should be sought to avert any untoward incident in future.

“It would be the wise decision to put the construction on hold and examine all the considerations with the various expertise available before a final decision is made on it (the hospital’s location),” she said.

Lutchman said construction of any building near a fault line is something to be concerned about, but it is increasingly serious when it involves an essential facility such as a hospital.

“It is a very serious situation. It is in the interest of any society that is in a zone where you have significant seismic activity to put every measure in place to ensure that your hospital is functional after a major earthquake,” she said.

The hospital, which is earmarked for construction off the southbound lane of the Solomon Hochoy Highway, Couva, near the Preysal Interchange, is being built through funds provided in a concessionary US$150 million loan from the Government of China.

Construction of the hospital and burns treatment centre began in March by Shanghai Construction Group and is being constructed under supervision of the Urban Development Corporation of T&T as a Design-Finance-Construct model.

Thus far, lands have been cleared and soil testing is being conducted on the site.

Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan, said on Wednesday night at Rienzi Complex, Couva, he was made aware of the situation by seismologists and had alerted the prime minister. Khan said he has asked for a written report and an official letter so he could discuss the matter with Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal and Persad-Bissessar.

“Just yesterday (Tuesday) I spoke to the prime minister on it and she told me to see how best I can glean that information as fast as possible,” Khan said.

“So I am hoping that they will send it to me as fast as possible. I will also have to send it to Dr Moonilal who is in charge of Udecott. We have to deal with that as fast as possible.” (Guardian)

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