Indonesia: Mezzanine collapse in Jakarta stock exchange "not terrorism," dozens injured

Plenty of people will have to answer for a building collapse in Jakarta’s stock-market building today, but counter-terrorism forces won’t be among them. Indonesian authorities have ruled out an intentional attack as a cause for the collapse of the mezzanine, which injured dozens of people but caused no deaths, at least thus far. Video from surveillance systems in the building captured the moment of the collapse, showing no explosions or purposeful action prior to the incident:

A mezzanine floor overlooking the main lobby of the Indonesian Stock Exchange building collapsed on Monday, injuring scores of people, many of them students, under slabs of concrete and other debris.

The high-rise building, constructed in the late 1990s, is part of a two-tower complex in the heart of the financial district and houses dozens of other offices including the World Bank. It was the target of a car bombing by Islamist militants in September 2000.

Police ruled out a bomb as a cause of Monday’s collapse. They said more than 70 people had been injured, but no deaths had been reported.

After watching the video, one would have assumed that several people would have been killed, especially among those underneath the mezzanine. It didn’t appear overcrowded either; a few dozen people were standing in front of the elevators, mainly university students, certainly not in numbers that should have exceeded normal capacity in a properly built facility.

The stock exchange opened back up for business in the afternoon as usual, but it is an automated exchange, so there aren’t as many employees as one would otherwise expect. Before re-opening, police searched the facility anyway to confirm that the collapse was not terror-related. In 2000, Islamists set off a car bomb at the same complex two years after it opened, killing ten Police clearly wanted to demonstrate quickly that this was not a repeat, especially given the other tenants in the facility:

 Hundreds of people work in the building complex, made up of two 32-floor towers—the first completed in 1994 and the second in 1998, Bloomberg reported. The collapse occurred in Tower 2, which hosts the local offices of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, and Nike as well as other firms and organizations, at 11.55 a.m. (11.55 p.m. ET), when the mezzanine floor above the lobby suddenly caved in. …

The causes of the collapse remain unclear, but police excluded the possibility of a bomb. The building was the target of an attack in September 2000, when a car bomb exploded inside the building’s garage, killing more than 10 people, but this time Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono told Metro TV the incident was a “pure accident.”

That may depend on the definition of the word “accident,” and that might also impact the tenancy of the complex in other ways. From what can be seen in the video, the collapse did not get triggered by an intentional event. Unless a specific problem with this mezzanine gets identified (such as water damage or improper maintenance limited to that section alone), the tenants of the building have to wonder whether there are larger structural issues at play in the complex. It probably won’t help that an audit of the structural integrity of the building in May 2017 didn’t turn up any red flags about the mezzanine. How did an audit miss whatever caused this catastrophic failure eight months later? And why, after that, would tenants feel reassured when the same officials declare that it’s safe to reopen?