On April 11, a four-storey building in Darayya, Rural Damascus governorate, collapsed, killing two people. While the building had not been directly damaged from previous fighting in the area, the collapse was likely due to the indirect damage caused by nearby bombardment.
The Ministry of Interior said in a statement that the building was old and that two workers who were inside at the time of the collapse had been killed instantly. The head of the Darayya Local Council said that the building, which had been licensed for construction in 2003, was not inhabited and had not been damaged or renovated. Rather, he said, the collapse was likely due to the existence of tunnels beneath the building.
Darayya was subject to a punishing siege by regime forces from 2012 to 2016, ending in the forced displacement of all residents after entire neighbourhoods were flattened by airstrikes. Around 255,000 people lived in Darayya in 2007, according to official statistics, while only about 25,000 people remain in the city today, according to local estimates obtained by The Syria Report.
The collapsed building was located on Al-Wahda Street near the Omar Bin Al-Khattab Mosque, a former Darayya City Council official told The Syria Report. The street had been a frontline during the opposition’s control of Darayya and witnessed intense bombardment at the time, including heavy artillery, missiles, and barrel bombs.
The building was old and was owned by a contractor named Abu Imad Al-Sakka, himself native to Darayya. It was licensed, located within the zoning plan for Darayya, and inhabited before 2011.
The former official added that the building itself had not been directly hit by bombs, though its surrounding area faced widespread destruction from bombardments. After Darayya residents were forcibly displaced, large portions of the city, including where the collapsed building was located, were looted by regime forces. Looters took furniture, windows, doors, electrical wiring, sewage pipes, and even tiles. Former residents did not return to the collapsed building after the fighting in Darayya subsided, as it had been looted until only the structure remained, making the building uninhabitable.
According to the former official, after 2016, the owner of the now collapsed building sold the ground floor, which includes a shop, to a member of the local Al-Hussan family. The two people killed in the collapse were from this family and had been working to remove rubble and rehabilitate the ground floor, he added. The technical committees in the Darayya municipality did not previously reveal the structural safety of the building or of other nearby buildings located along that same former frontline zone. It was not until after the collapse that the municipality removed a portion of the rubble and sent a technical committee to investigate.
A former opposition military commander who had been present in Darayya ruled out the existence of a tunnel beneath the building. He told The Syria Report that, despite the building’s location on the former frontline, it had been far from the area where regime forces had been concentrated, so it would not have been feasible to construct a tunnel underneath. The Syria Report was unable to confirm or deny the former commander’s claims.
Meanwhile, the former city council official said that the collapse was probably due to indirect structural damage wrought during bombardment of the surrounding area. The bombing loosened the foundations of nearby buildings, as well as the ground soil. Some of these damages are invisibile, albeit cumulative, and may subsequently cause impacted buildings to collapse somewhat suddenly, as is what happened to multiple buildings in areas formerly controlled by the opposition in Syria.