Earthquake damage to new Efate school buildings

Education authorities will meet Malapoa College administrators this week to discuss damage to new college buildings caused by aftershocks from a recent earthquake on Efate.

The college says aftershocks from the quake damaged the girls’ and boys’ dormitories, with cracks appearing in walls, causing fears about the safety of children.

The Bureau of Meteorology says on 16 February, an earthquake registering 5.8 was recorded 37 kilometres west south west of Port Vila.

Malapoa College Deputy Principal, Shem Simon, says following the meeting with education officials, a team will inspect the buildings to confirm if they are safe for use.

“We have to make a quick decision,” Mr Simon says.

The aftershock damage has raised questions about whether the Vanuatu Government is adequately supervising the construction of buildings by foreign donors in Vanuatu.

The new college buildings, completed in 2018, cost around one billion vatu and were built through a Vanuatu Government contract with the Chinese Government.

Mr Simon says since their construction, no inspections have been done to determine whether the buildings are safe for use during and after earthquakes.

The Acting Director General for the Ministry of Education and Training, Gideon John, has confirmed no local engineers were involved in the Malapoa Infrastructure Project.

“The Ministry of Education and Training were not involved in the supervision of this building work,” he said.

“The Vanuatu Government should be involving local engineers on any projects funded by overseas governments because local engineers know the country very well.”

The Deputy Principal of Malapoa College, Akasten Tabi, says Malapoa College suspended classes during the 5.8 magnitude earthquake.

“The students were very scared because in one class, there were 35 students but there are no [external] exit doors in the room,” Mr Tabi said.

“The dormitory walls were cracked by the earthquake.
“The students can still use the dormitories but not during an earthquake because it would no longer be safe to do so.”

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