Editorial: When survival instincts kick in

A survivor who had endured far worse under more extreme circumstances, he thought of the one person he could turn to for help. He called his younger brother.
19 Sep 2023 10:47
Editorial: When survival instincts kick in
WG Friendship Plaza.

Being stuck in an elevator for close to two hours, when everyone has gone home for the day, has to be a chilling experience.

That was the reality for a worker on Friday as he stared down into the abyss below the 27th floor of the 30-storey WG Friendship Plaza in the capital city.

It was moving on 5.30pm when the lift he was in suddenly stopped; he was stuck. The other worker switched off electricity supply to the complex, locked up and gone home for the day. There was no check system to account for everyone on site.

Around him, the city had turned dark quickly.

He saw the many hues of city lights below him illuminate the night.


A survivor who had endured far worse under more extreme circumstances, he thought of the one person he could turn to for help. He called his younger brother.

Naturally panic-stricken, as most families would under such circumstances, his younger brother had no second thoughts. He called the National Fire Authority.

Inside a corner of the high rise – where even after six years of construction there was no end in sight to completion dates – mounting concern welled up in him and his family. Not knowing when you would be rescued – as work had ceased for the weekend – was a grim reckoning.

In the darkness that enveloped the building, the watch crew at the National Fire Authority arrived close to two hours later, before he was finally released from his elevated yet panoramic prison.

Each year, completion dates for the landmark project are moved forward.

The WG Friendship Plaza at MacGregor Road, Suva. Photo: Naisa Koroi

Many have queried the Chinese-backed white elephant, which when ready could be home to a highend hotel.

The tallest building in the capital city was closed for a while for failing to meet Occupational Health and Safety standards.

For an ambitious landmark of the likes, which even sailors from far out at sea now use as guide to shore, there would have been more authentic measures to stick as close as possible to the prescribed guidelines – COVID or not.

Take as an example the FHL Tower under construction down the road. It went up much later, but is safely near completion, COVID or otherwise.

The incident at the McGregor Road property is major and overdue lesson in construction safety.


It calls for thorough steps – with a bit more tempo – in the review of the Fiji National Building Code (FNBC).

The presentation of a Cabinet paper seeking approval for the legislative changes to the National Building Code is pending.

This approval is being sought to implement the recommendations from the review.

Two things are required.

As urbanisation starts to hit us on a big scale (developers start building upwards because of lack of space), the first requirement is a guarantee that all safety regulations in terms of the FNBC and all fire safety requirements are met stringently before building occupancy permits are approved.

The second is the political will to ensure this.


Feedback: frederica.elbourne@fijisun.com.fj

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