Australian tourist falls into Naia 'sinkhole'

Australian tourist falls into Naia 'sinkhole'
PHOTO: The Straits Times

There's no end to problems at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).

After fixing the air conditioning, toilets and leaking ceilings, the once worst airport in the world is now dealing with "sinkholes."

The new problem was discovered last month when an Australian tourist fell into a hole after part of the floor in the arrival area gave way as he was walking to the transit gate.

The incident happened at 9 p.m. on July 25, but became known only on Wednesday after somebody posted on Facebook the incident report to Rafael Regular, Naia Terminal 2 chief of operations.

According to the report, three airport staff employees helped the 40-year-old tourist get out of the hole, which was a square-meter wide and 0.6-meter deep.

The tourist, who arrived from Hong Kong on the same day, was not injured and he filed no complaint, but Naia people started to watch their step at the airport.

The Naia Terminal 2 manager, Rico Gonzalez, told the Inquirer Wednesday that the Manila International Airport Authority was checking the floor throughout the airport for other possible sinkholes to prevent a repeat of the latest embarrassment for Naia.

Pocket garden

Gonzalez said the part of the floor that collapsed was an area reclaimed by Philippine Airlines (PAL) over a year ago.

"That part used to be a pocket garden. PAL asked for more space because they said the pathway to their transit lounge was too narrow," Gonzalez said.

When the pocket garden was removed, it left a deep hole that apparently was not properly filled up by the contractor hired by PAL.

"Instead of filling up that hole with soil to ensure that it was compact, the contractor apparently just covered it with wooden trusses before covering it with marble tiles," Gonzalez said, adding that the wood naturally weakened over time, something the contractor failed to anticipate.

He said PAL immediately filled up the hole, and the work was completed two weeks ago.

"This time we made sure the contractor really filled it up so nobody would fall [there again]," Gonzalez said.

He said passengers hardly passed through the portion of the floor that collapsed.

"It is not really a passenger movement area," he said.

Nevertheless, Gonzalez said he had ordered all "reclaimed areas," specifically portions of the floor that used to be pocket gardens, to be inspected to make sure they were not hollow.

Airline counters and food concessionaires are located in the reclaimed areas, he said.

"Passengers are not allowed in these areas," he said.

That leaves only airline staff, restaurant employees, other airport personnel, including managers, vulnerable to still undetected holes under the floor.

Indoor rain

In May, Naia Terminal 1, still undergoing a P1.3-billion facelift, fixed leaks on the ceiling in the east and west concourses of the departure area.

The contractor, DM Consunji Inc., owned up to causing the leaks after it stripped off the waterproofing for the application of carbon fiber reinforced polymer.

The absence of waterproofing became obvious when it rained on May 27 and it also rained in the departure area, forcing airport employees and passengers to use umbrellas indoors to keep dry.

The rain also damaged the carpets in the concourses and electronic equipment in the airport ground support services office and in several airline lounges.

Airport authorities demanded that DMCI immediately fix the ceiling and make sure it stays fixed.

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