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July 23, 2004, Sai building in Manila’s Divisoria collapsed

On July 23, 2004, the Sai building, a then 5-year old 8-story building on Padre Rada Street, in the heart of busy Divisoria in Manila collapsed at 4:40 p.m., crashing down on Italy Marketing building across the street but there were no fatalities as authorities had safely evacuated the occupants.

The five-year-old SAI Building at Padre Rada and Juan Luna streets housed a branch of the Insular Savings Bank, a marketing firm and several residential apartments.

The Collpased of Sai Building

It begun to lean in the morning of that day, sending frightened passersby scampering for safety, bringing traffic and business to a halt, and pedestrians gawking for hours at the awesome sight of a structure about to crumble.

Ernesto Ozaeta, a security guard at nearby Insular bank said:

“As early as 10:30 a.m. we heard a loud sound, like a transformer had exploded. When we went outside, we saw that the building had already tilted on its side.”

Sai owner Ajit Mansukhani said, referring to the same sound Ozaeta heard:

“I felt the building had sunk after I heard a loud cracking sound.”

A barangay watchman with a megaphone directed vendors, shoppers and passersby to get as far away from the building as possible.

Police learned about the leaning building shortly before noon. When they arrived at the scene, the immediate area around the building had already been cordoned off, and offices beside it empty.

By 3 p.m., the building was already leaning some four feet to its right, its angle made apparent by the building’s skewed distance from the structure behind it.

Harry Wong, an engineer and a friend of Mansukhani said:

“The building’s foundation may have weakened because there was construction work all around it. My assessment is that when workers began pounding to lay down the concrete piles, the soil structure underneath Sai had changed.”

Two medium-rise buildings are under construction in front of Sai.

The building housed a few residential and office units, and a textile warehouse on the second floor. Mansukhani said that some 20 people stayed at the building at any given time.

Before it collapsed, occupants were not allowed by the Bureau of Fire Protection to retrieve their belongings from their units so no one was hurt except for City Administrator Dino Nable, whose knee was injured in the stampede of kibitzers running from the scene as the structure fell into the building across the street.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the National Disaster Coordinating Council, the Manila City Government, and the Department of Public Works and Highways helped secure the area.


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