China orders prompt probe into swaying Shenzhen skyscraper

·4-min read

Officials in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong have ordered a swift and “scientific” investigation to address public fears about a swaying landmark skyscraper in Shenzhen.

The orders come as tenants in the SEG Plaza worry about the future of their businesses and the building’s management scrambles to find alternative accommodation for clients.

About 15,000 people fled the skyscraper in downtown Shenzhen on Tuesday when the floors began shaking. The shaking continued for two days and the building was closed on Friday for assessment.

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The investigation team, led by provincial Communist Party secretary Li Xi, met officials and experts at the site on Saturday to discuss the next steps, the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily reported on Monday.

The team also includes provincial governor Ma Xingrui, Shenzhen party chief Wang Weizhong and the city’s new mayor Qin Weizhong.

Qin was named the city’s mayor on Thursday and the fears about the 356-metre (1,200-feet) skyscraper are the first challenge of his administration.

Li ordered cadres to come up with “scientific, authoritative investigation results as soon as possible”, according to the report.

“[We must] stay objective and seek truth from facts, form a joint investigation team of authoritative experts from within and outside the province to conduct in-depth comprehensive inspection and evaluation … And provide the people with a real sense of security,” Li was quoted as saying.

Inspectors say SEG Plaza safe while US consulate warns citizens to stay away

Li also told officials not to delay releasing information.

“[We should] release timely and efficient work progress, response measures and risk warnings, with openness and transparency, and proactively respond to the concerns of the people,” he said.

He also asked local officials to help the building’s merchants and tenants, and “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the people and ensure market stability”.

Some anxious owners and tenants of the plaza were still waiting on the official investigation before deciding their next move.

Tenant Mans Chen said he was in the building when the shaking started.

“I ran over 20 stories down last Tuesday when the first wobbling happened, and had to come back up the next day to pack and move my stuff out. I have to run up and down to carry things out,” Chen said.

“I don’t know what I can hope for now. On the one hand, I want the investigation to be over quickly so I can go back to my office. On the other hand, I also want the investigation to be thorough and detailed so I can have peace of mind.”

Chen, whose company sells computers and hardware, including bitcoin mining machines, said SEG Plaza’s management was trying to find space for the affected tenants but there was not enough available to meet the sudden need.

“Now we share a small space with a few other companies. Our goods are left in the open. I pray for sunny days now as rain might damage my electronics. We are a bit squeezed but considering the situation, we have to make do.”

How the wobbly SEG Plaza skyscraper has shaken public confidence

Another shop owner, who declined to be named, said he was also worried about his business.

“I bought my office a few years ago and spent a fortune in the renovation. If we have to move for safety reasons, all the renovation will go to waste. Even if I want to sell it, the price will be unfavourable – it is a headache,” he said.

He was in talks with his insurance agent to calculate his losses and any possible compensation.

Mainland property websites indicate that SEG Plaza’s office units were previously valued at an average 36,000 yuan (US$5,600) per square metre.

Since Wednesday, the Shenzhen government has published data about the building on its social media platforms. The government said that according to experts, the data collected so far was normal and within safety requirements.

While the Shenzhen government said there was no earthquake recorded during the periods residents reported the building shaking, a preliminary investigation showed that a combination of factors – such as wind, subway movement and temperature variances – might have combined to cause “Karman vortex street”, according to mainland newspaper reports.

There is still no official explanation for the shaking. A staff member of Shenzhen’s propaganda department said the investigation was ongoing and urged the public to wait for an announcement. Shenzhen Electronics Group, the building’s owner, did not reply to requests for comment.

The plaza is the fifth-tallest building in Shenzhen and located in Huaqiangbei electronics retail hub. In recent years, it has also become known to bitcoin miners as the go-to place for components.

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