Demolition work causes Makkah homes to crack

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Houses on the al-Madafea Mountain on the outskirts of Saudi Arabia's Makkah have started to crack because of ongoing demolition work to remove parts of the mountain for the Grand Mosque expansion project, local residents said.

They told Dammam-based Alsharq newspaper on Sunday that the roofs and walls of several houses have cracked or fallen down as a result of the earth shaking when dynamite is used to remove parts of the rocks.

"We have not been financially compensated to vacate our homes or given enough guarantees that the houses will not fall on our heads as a result of the explosions," said one citizen who did not want be identified.

Fahd Ahmed, a Saudi resident, said the foundations of the houses were weak and cannot withstand the nearby explosions.

"We built these houses with our own hands more than 40 years ago and they are too weak to bear the tremors caused by the explosions," he said.

Ahmed said the walls of his own home have started cracking and part of the roof has fallen down. "A number of other houses in the area have suffered the same fate," he said.

Ahmed said after many visits to the concerned municipality, a committee comprising representatives of the local authority and the Civil Defense visited the area.

He said after this visit Saudi Binladin Group, which is executing the project, asked him to leave his home and signed a contract to pay him SR40,000 every month for six months as compensation.

"The company then rescinded the contract without any previous notice and said it would be responsible for any damage to my home but refused to sign any pledge to this effect in front of any official body," he said.

Ahmed said his family is worried the house may fall any time on their heads, especially as they have no other home to go to.

Khaled Al-Ghamdi, another Saudi resident, said the current situation might be a prelude to an imminent catastrophe.

He asked the concerned officials to step in and do something for them before it was too late.

"We are terrorized every time the earth shakes under our feet. Our houses are too weak, especially because they were built without strong foundations," he said.

Fahd Al-Hazmi, head of the Makkah municipality's committee to examine houses on the verge of collapse, said one of the houses on the mountain was slightly affected by the nearby explosions but did not consider it to be on the verge of collapse.

He, however, refused to promise that houses near the expansion project would not fall down as a result of the demolition work.

"It is only the executing company that will be able to ascertain the effects of the explosions on the houses," he said.

Responding to residents’ demands to stop work on the expansion projects until their complaint is considered, al-Hazmi said they could only do this under clear instructions by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.

(This article was first published on Saudi Gazette on Jan. 13, 2014)