After the devastating collapse of a beach club in Palma de Mallorca with four deaths, there are increasing signs that there were several building code violations in the house. And this also brings other houses on the island into focus. There is an obligation to monitor. But that doesn’t bode well.

It was a tragedy on Playa de Palma, the beach promenade on the main island of the Balearic Islands: with a dull roar on Thursday evening, the terrace of the “Medusa Beach Club” collapsed from the first floor with around 20 people on it. The bitter result: four dead and 14 injured. Among the dead are two young German women aged 20 and 30.

The authorities in Palma de Mallorca are working hard on a reconstruction and the condition of the building’s structure is of great interest. According to recent reports from Mallorcan media, it was said to have been built around 1972. It is already becoming apparent that there had been a number of building irregularities in the two-story house in the past. It is a home for no more than one or two families, said to have been built from sandstone and “flash cement”.

The newspaper “Diario de Mallorca” reported on three cases of building code violations that allegedly occurred several years ago. An additional cause of the collapse is suspected to be overloading due to too many guests on the terrace.

According to the German construction expert Oliver Girharz, who has lived and worked on Mallorca for almost 20 years, in the years between 1950 and 1977, inferior building materials such as “lightning cement” were often used on the island in order to meet the high demand for housing. The building material is also known as alumina cement.

The special thing about this material is that it is “negatively affected” by moisture, Gilharz told “Welt”. “When moisture leaks and hits the concrete, for example through a leaky bathtub or through rain, a decomposition process takes place that weakens the concrete body.”

Added to this is the moist and salty sea air, says Girharz, which is particularly dangerous for so-called “concrete skeleton buildings” that are typical of the first row by the sea. The entire load of those buildings would be supported by concrete pillars. Girharz told the paper that moisture could penetrate into these structures if there were cracks in the concrete. “So because of the proximity to the sea, we have exposure to both salts and moisture. And that causes the steel that is in the concrete to corrode and the concrete can become unstable.”

According to Girharz, there have been problems with precast concrete elements in the past, with balconies being particularly affected, as they simply broke away from the facade of the building. In order to remedy this and protect older buildings from such problems, which can sometimes have catastrophic consequences as they did in the Beach Club in Palma de Mallorca, the Spanish government has now decided that all buildings older than 50 years must undergo a so-called “building inspection”.

But there is a problem, as Girharz explained to FOCUS online when asked: “The owners of houses that are more than half a century old are informed by the building authorities that they have to provide proof of this building TÜV. The catch: there are no threats of sanctions in any form if the owners do not comply with this request.” So anyone who does nothing to have the building’s security certified with the TÜV seal does not have to fear any consequences.

Only last Friday, the day after the “Medusa Beach Club” collapsed, the regional government of the Balearic Islands decided to legalize illegal construction in rural areas. According to a report by “La Vanguardia”, there are estimated to be around 30,000 buildings in Mallorca alone.

The decree is intended to allow owners to carry out maintenance and repair work, as well as to enable a sale of the properties, which had previously not been possible due to illegal additions such as pools, verandas or terraces. The prerequisite for this is that the owners pay a fine equal to the amount of the illegal construction work. The newspaper wrote that the use of these buildings for tourism was, at least officially, ruled out.

How long it can take to resolve structural complaints was also depressingly demonstrated in the building in which the “Medusa Beach Club” has been located for several years.

After the defects discovered by the building administration of Palma de Mallorca in the building on Playa de Palma, a major building inspection in 2017 and a sanction procedure, “further elements accumulated on the roof of the building in the subsequent construction and renovation work,” reports the “Diario de Mallorca”.