by Pavlos Neophytou
The House of Representatives Internal Affairs Committee sounded the alarm on Cyprus and Public Services' degree of preparedness in the event of strong seismic activity following a meeting on March 16. The discussion was triggered by the deadly earthquake in Turkey and Syria, resulting in the issue being registered as an ex-officio matter and legislative initiatives being considered for the structural adequacy of buildings and the obligation to carry out periodic inspections. In this context, the issue of the unsuitability of the building housing the Ministry of Labour and Social Security is reopened, as staff seems to be concerned that in an earthquake scenario, their safety could be immediately compromised.
According to K, on Monday, February 6, when the second major earthquake (7.5 magnitude) that struck Turkey was felt, a portion of the Ministry of Labour staff left the building, refusing to return to their offices that day. As reported to us, since then it has been impossible for staff to go to work without fear of another earthquake.
The first preliminary inspection of the building was completed in 2015. According to a letter from the Department of Public Works, the inspection confirmed that the building does not meet the seismic provisions of modern regulations, with the main problems being the columns and uncoupled frames. Damage to columns, beams and the basement, with oxidation of reinforcement and deterioration of concrete, have also been identified due to the age of the building, which was constructed in 1963 and comprised the ground, first and second floors, with the third and fourth floors added in 1969. In particular, the basement of the building was found to be in the worst condition of building iron and concrete due to dampness.
Subsequently, a study followed for the structural upgrade in the first stage of the basement due to available funds which was completed at the end of 2018. Following an on-site visit to the building by officials from the Bridges and Special Studies Branch on 14/09/2020 to visually re-inspect the condition of the basement, it was found that ongoing dampness and structural deterioration had further affected the structural adequacy of the columns and retaining walls "which is a very great concern" according to repeated letters that year from Department of Public Works to Department of Labor. The letters also requested that all staff housed in the building be moved so that necessary work could begin. "We reiterate that delay in moving staff out of building adds further stress on the building and increases the risk of more damage done during subsequent earthquakes," the Department warned pleading for expedited action on the part of the Ministry of Labour.
In early July this year, the Ministry of Labour administration and the headquarters of Social Security Services are expected to move to the "Metropolitan" building on Spyrou Kyprianou Avenue but concerns of employees have not been allayed so far.
The issue of the Ministry's relocation was raised by former Labour Minister Kyriakos Kousios during a presentation of his ministry's project last February. The new building consists of 19 floors with modern office space conference rooms and other areas with a total area of 6,433 m2 as well as underground parking spaces with a total area of 2,157 m2. He also pointed out that the completion of the building and the expected relocation of the Ministry of Labour to a modern building with high technical standards will solve serious functional and structural problems existing building.