A massive crater that appeared on the grounds of a historic courtyard in downtown Beijing on Monday was the result of an 18-meter-deep basement that had been dug out illegally by a People’s Congress member.
The ground under the No. 93 Courtyard on Deshengmennei Street collapsed in the early morning of January 24, leaving a gaping hole that affected houses of 15 neighboring residents who were forced to evacuate because of damage, according to Beijing News Radio.
Sina News elaborates:
The large crater, with a size of 15 meters long, 5 meters wide and 10 meters deep, had already been refilled with sand and cement measuring over 1,900 cubic meters. The fact that there used to be a five-floored, 18-meter-deep basement in the yard was hard to trace, but the bus passing by has not been restored yet.
Residents nearby who lost their houses due to the collapse were settled temporarily on small hotels along the street. They said the digging in No.93 had lasted for over a year.
“They dug during the day and transported the soil at night,” said a neighbor, “Sometimes it’s quite noisy.”
The construction was reportedly commissioned by Li Baojun, a member of the People’s Congress of Xuzhou city, Jiangsu province. He’d purchased five rooms at the courtyard in Xicheng district back in 2010. Two of the rooms were classified as Category II property because of their historical significance, and were not meant to be renovated without permission of the district’s Cultural and City Planning Bureaus, which Li had not acquired.
The digging was never registered with Beijing authorities, and the construction workers weren’t even qualified, according to Sina.
“When the workers said they planned to dig several stories, we were quite alarmed,” one neighbor told the Beijing Morning Post.
Li had apparently spoken to the proprietor of the property about the digging last July and promised to stop after being fined. Several months later, however, Li was back at it.
The Xicheng district government said that all costs of refilling the hole, fixing the street and compensating neighbors will be paid by Li, among other legal punishments.