Tunnelling work for Metro station affects 2 commercial structures in George Town

Two commercial establishments on Prakasam Salai in George Town developed cracks due to the ongoing tunnelling work, said officials of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) on Saturday.

Hotel Excellent and an Aircel office located in the north Chennai commercial neighbourhood sported fresh cracks due to the tunnelling work carried out for the construction of the Washermenpet underground station as part of the Metro Rail work. As a precautionary measure, CMRL has evacuated the buildings for a few days.

“We are yet to ascertain the exact number of cracks on both these buildings. The evacuation has been done as a precautionary measure till the tunnelling operations below these buildings are complete since they look structurally weak and we don’t want to take any risk,” said an official.

While the tunnelling operation below the Aircel office is complete, work underneath Hotel Excellent might be done on Saturday midnight, said the official.

Abbas S.F. Shakir, owner of Hotel Excellent, which was constructed in 1952, said CMRL officials informed him of the cracks in the hotel around 3.30 p.m. on Saturday. Subsequently, he vacated the building. “When they ask to leave for safety, we have to oblige. On March 9 and March 10, they have asked us keep the hotel shut. I’m planning to demolish this building after this work and reconstruct it as it has grown very old,” Mr. Shakir said.

The Aircel office, located at a few yards away from the hotel, developed cracks on March 7.

Metro Rail workers intimated officials at the office and asked them to shift operations to the CMRL site office near Central station, said an Aircel official. “For the last two days, around 50 of us have been working from their site office. Of course, it is inconvenient but we have to comply. CMRL officials informed that the repair work may begin on Saturday night. It is not clear when we can resume operations in our office,” said an official. On Saturday, the front portion of the Aircel office was opened for a few hours late in the evening to complete some important work, the official added.

One of the Metro Rail workers said they would look into repairs in a couple of days and then hand over the buildings. “We surveyed the buildings in the tunnelling alignment earlier and identified the existing cracks they bear. Then, we entered into an undertaking with the building owners and assured them that we would repair the buildings should they develop new cracks owing to tunnelling work and pay compensation only if the building is damaged. These cracks may have appeared since they are very old buildings. But these are minor cracks and we will repair them,” said a worker.

Residents of the area allege that houses have begun to develop cracks due to tunnelling operations. S. Shahul Ahmed, a resident of Meeranlabbai Street, a few yards away from the site on Prakasam Salai, said that nearly six to seven houses have developed new cracks. “The vibration becomes pronounced during the night and we fear that some of the houses may collapse. We want CMRL to assure us that such operations may not cause damage to the houses,” he said.

Sources said two weeks ago, a school building had developed minor cracks due to tunnelling work and was repaired.

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