Six construction workers were buried beneath the rubble of an illegal factory that was being erected on government land without a permit but with the full knowledge of the Planning Authority.
Five of them were sent to hospital with serious injuries. One was sent to the morgue.
It took rescue crews 15 hours to find the broken body of 20-year-old JeanPaul Sofia. The shoddy five-storey heap of bricks collapsed on top of him in less than six seconds when concrete was added to what would have been its roof.
The site had been under construction for months, but none of the country’s regulatory agencies bothered to check whether the proper Commencement Notice had been issued. Is it because those involved have close ties to government?
Prime Minister Robert Abela posted his response to the collapse on Twitter. “Condolences to the family of the young victim of the accident in Kordin,” he wrote. “Thanks to the workers from different departments for their work in the most difficult conditions. – RA”
I wonder if he took a moment to reflect on his own government’s role in the young man’s death. Abela has been prime minister for nearly two years, and he has done nothing to impose any real standards or licensing on the construction industry, let alone enforce regulations.
This horrific collapse in Kordin is just the latest in a string of deaths and serious injuries on construction sites where safety is a nuisance and workers are disposable.
Three weeks ago, a 47-year-old man fell to his death from a warehouse roof in Marsa.
His was the second construction-related accident that was serious enough to be reported in November. Just two weeks before he died, a 43-year-old worker from Turkey suffered injuries when he fell more than one storey from a construction site in Msida.
In October, three workers suffered severe injuries on three different job sites in a single 24-hour period. A 46-year-old worker from Albania was hurt by wood sawing machinery on a job site in Xagħra (Gozo), a 52-year-old man slipped off a steel beam at a job site in St. Paul’s Bay, and another man fell one storey in San Ġwann.
Earlier that same month, on 11 October, a 27-year-old Hungarian worker fell two storeys while working in a shaft in Żejtun.
Days earlier, on 8 October, a 25-year-old man from Paola fell three storeys from a construction site in Birkirkara.
A week and a half before that, a 35-year-old man from Mosta suffered life-threatening injuries when he fell one and a half storeys at a job site in Rabat.
That same day, a 46-year-old Albanian worker fell from scaffolding at a job site in Birżebbuġa.
Two weeks earlier, on 14 September, 29-year-old Luca Curmi died after falling four storeys from a construction site in Munxar.
Curmi was the sixth construction fatality of 2022, and the second one that week. Two days before Curmi’s life was cut short, a 57-year-old man fell five storeys to his death on a construction site in Qormi.
These incidents happened within a four-month period. I can’t call them ‘accidents’ because it’s the same pattern this rapacious, out of control industry has followed all along.
Lest anyone claim 2022 is an anomaly, here’s a random list of building site fatalities from 2021. We only know about these incidents because someone died or was hospitalised.
On 23 September 2021, a 51-year-old worker from Gambia was critically injured when he fell one and a half storeys from a job site in Siġġiewi.
On 22 September 2021 — one day earlier — a 41-year-old worker fell one storey from a construction site in Marsaskala.
On 8 June 2021, a 40-year-old Italian man was killed when he fell four storeys from a factory roof in the Ħal Far industrial estate.
On 20 May 2021, the roof of a construction site in Fgura collapsed on top of a man working on an underground floor.
On 6 May 2021, a 30-year-old Egyptian worker fell one story from a construction site in Ħamrun.
On 14 April 2021, a 38-year-old Albanian worker fell seven stories to his death from a building site in Marsaskala.
The year’s most shocking case was that of Jaiteh Lamin, the 32-year-old Ghanian man who fractured his spine falling two storeys from a building site in Mellieħa. Instead of calling an ambulance for the injured man, the pathetic coward who hired him — Glen Farrugia of J&G Farrugia Ltd — dumped Lamin on the side of the road in Selmun and left him for dead.
When was the last time you heard anything about any of these cases?
Safety standards are considered a nuisance in Malta, and nothing is done to change it, no matter how many workers are killed or crippled for life. This is true even in those rare cases when a contractor does end up in court.
Ludwig Dimech was charged with involuntary homicide when the job site he was working on caused the collapse of an adjacent home, crushing 54-year-old Miriam Pace to death beneath the rubble.
You’d think the pending court case would bar him and his companies from job sites on the basis of safety until he was either convicted or exonerated, but you would be mistaken. Instead, he was given over €1 million in direct orders from Ian Borg’s Infrastructure Malta — including a €125,000 road resurfacing contract one month after the fatal collapse.
As for the architects involved in the project, the two men were found guilty of involuntary homicide and involuntary damage to third-party property, but their fines were converted to suspended jail sentences by an appeals court, allowing them to evade any real consequences for Miriam Pace’s death.
This most recent fatal accident in Kordin will haunt JeanPaul Sofia’s family forever, but it will do nothing to lower the risks for young men like him.
The construction industry acts with total impunity, building wherever it wants, ignoring safety regulations, and donating to political parties to keep greedy politicians under its thumb.
How many more have to die before you say, “Enough!”?