SYDNEY • Australia's building and construction codes came under scrutiny yesterday after hundreds of residents were evacuated from a high-rise Sydney apartment block where cracks were discovered - the second such scare in six months.
Some residents said they were left homeless and in tears after they were ordered to leave the 10-storey, 122-apartment Mascot Towers in a southern Sydney suburb late on Friday after cracks were found in the structural beams.
"At this stage, the engineers need to look at the cracks in those beams while the residents aren't there," Assistant Commissioner Roger Mentha of Fire and Rescue New South Wales told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "Then they can do an analysis on whether there have been any movements."
The incident at the 10-year-old building followed the Christmas Eve evacuation of residents in the recently completed 38-storey Opal Tower in the Sydney Olympic Park after "cracking noises" were heard.
Investigators found a number of "design and construction issues" at Opal Tower that could have led to the damage that saw the structure move "1mm to 2mm".
New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, said after a public outcry over the earlier scare that it would embark on the "biggest overhaul of building laws" in its history.
The changes include appointing a building commissioner to audit work done throughout the design and construction process.
The Engineers Australia trade group said on Saturday that the state "has been slow to move, but it is not too late if we start now".
"The Mascot Towers situation is further evidence that we need changes in the building and construction sector," Engineers Australia spokesman Jonathan Russell said in a statement.
"It shouldn't take a crisis for government to act in the interests of community safety and consumer protection."