Residents of Fort McMurray apartments banned from returning
Following an examination of Penhorwood Apartments in Fort McMurray, engineers have determined it is highly unlikely that any resident will ever enter any of the buildings again, for any reason, including allowing residents to gather the remainder of their belongings.
Serious structural problems have caused 300 people to be evacuated from the buildings for the past few weeks.
A letter posted on a website created by the Penhorwood condo board informs residents that as of Wednesday evening, the security firm has been advised not to allow access to the site to anybody for any purpose.
The letter informs residents that fencing has been put up around the buildings.
The post also informs residents that engineers found evidence of further deterioration in risk areas previously identified. Engineers also found evidence that the buildings' roofs are starting to "fail".
"They have formed the opinion that they can not in good conscience engage workers (however well trained in Occupational Health and Safety matters) to undertake the short term stabilization plan previously mandated. Therefore no longer term remediation can occur either," writes Al Penner, lawyer for the Penhorwood condo board.
The developer of the buildings calls it a systematic type failure because it has affected all seven buildings. The developer points to the company Nascor, who he says designed the flooring and joists, which are failing.
The developer says he found out about the problems in an engineer's report, and it came down to inexpensive small blocks of wood that were supposed to be installed on site beside joists to keep them stable, but they weren't installed.
These buildings will likely fall down unless they are demolished.
"The real question we've got is why didn't these people act when they first found out? Nobody contacted us, nobody got a hold of anybody -- they found this failure at the initial stages before it was serious, before anybody had to be evacuated," said Penhorwood developer Dave Marshall.
Many owners from the apartment complex told CTV News they are facing bankruptcy as they continue to make mortgage payments for a home they can't live in.
The premier says a building code is in place and it should have been inspected in this case.
"I'm really interested in seeing where the system failed. Someone did not do their job if it led to this poor construction," said Ed Stelmach.
He says the province will do what it can to provide residents some help.
"We will support as much as we can."
In recent weeks, residents were given 15 minutes to re-enter their units and pack up as many belongings as possible.
Some pictures posted on the website show the stress being put on the joists securing the building. Another image shows a broken piece of glass over a crack in the foundation.
It's not clear if structural failure is covered on owners' insurance policies. The condo association is trying to see what lenders and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) can do to help owners.
With files from Joel Gotlib