LIC says building felt tremor last month

One of the seven underground metro stations along Anna Salai will come up near the LIC building. Photo: R. Ragu   | Photo Credit: R_Ragu

The LIC Building, which once took pride in being the tallest structure in Chennai, is back in the spotlight due to ongoing Metro Rail work. A crack has recently been spotted on the eleventh floor of the building which, LIC engineers attribute to Metro Rail work. However, CMRL denies the charge.

Following LIC’s allegation that the construction work caused the crack, senior engineers from CMRL and experts from IIT-Madras inspected the building on Thursday. Though CMRL used cranes to get a better look, the trees and dense branches around the building prevented clear visibility, officials said.

Now, CMRL has sourced equipment used when painting high-rise buildings to carry out a closer inspection. floor of the LIC building on Anna Salai.

“We will check with LIC on Friday and inspect the crack,” said V. Somasundaram, chief general manager (constructions), CMRL.

While engineers at LIC said the crack was a result of Metro Rail construction, CMRL denied the charge.

According to S. Thangavel, chief engineer, LIC, employees working at the Anna Salai office, once the tallest building in the city, felt a tremor on June 25.

“We felt a clear vibration and wondered if there was an earthquake. Then, we found that a vibratory hammer was being used for underground construction nearby and thought maybe that had something to do with the tremor,” he said.

Soon after, LIC wrote to CMRL opposing such construction work which put the building and its occupants at risk. “A colleague observed the crack on July 10 and that is when we wrote to CMRL again,” Mr. Thangavel said.

CMRL soon conducted inspections at the premises. Even before the construction began, CMRL had conducted a thorough inspection, said Mr. Somasundaram.

“We submitted a report with the details of the number of cracks, including photographs, to LIC. But, our inspection was largely from the inside. So we cannot say with certainty if it is a recently-developed crack or an old one,” he said.

On how it could be ascertained, Mr. Somasundaram said a new crack would have a clearer surface than an old one that would have accumulated dust particles in its crevices. CMRL will also consult the Structural Engineering Research Centre which studied the LIC building after a major fire accident in 1975.

“We are consulting with senior professors at IIT-M as well,” he said, adding, “There is nothing to worry about.”

While it may take a few weeks to zero in on the actual cause of the crack, the issue brings to focus the safety of heritage buildings on the stretch, particularly the Bharat Insurance Building — the demolition of which is currently sub judice — and others housing State Bank of India, Higginbothams, Poompuhar, and Addison & Co.

With regard to Bharat Insurance Building, INTACH, a heritage conservation agency, said it wrote to CMRL asking how it planned to go about construction on the compound where the heritage building stands. “CMRL responded saying only the building had heritage value and not the compound,” said an INTACH member.

The LIC site is where one of the seven underground stations along Anna Salai will come up. Currently, work on laying the diaphragm walls at a depth of 25 metres is on.

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Printable version | Oct 26, 2021 5:03:45 PM |

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