The housing ministry has said that a speeding container truck was to blame for the death of a young woman who was fatally injured by a falling metal post on Saturday night.
Azfa Zuhair, 24, was on the passenger seat of a motorcycle when a container truck in front hit the metal post and caused it to fall on her head. She died yesterday while undergoing treatment for head and spine injuries at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
The metal post fell from an old basketball hoop on Izzudeen Magu that was converted into a decorative coconut palm by the housing ministry for last month’s Independence Day celebrations. The post was kept leaning against the wall of the housing ministry building on the southwest side of Malé.
The fatal accident has sparked public outrage with the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and social media users calling on housing minister Dr Mohamed Muiz to resign. Critics say the ministry’s “negligence” is to blame for the accident and that Muiz must be held accountable.
In a press statement released last night, the housing ministry said the metal post’s base had been securely mounted with iron rods.
“The work to convert the metal post into a decorative coconut palm had been done after ensuring its safety by climbing on to it,” the housing ministry said, insisting that the metal post had not fallen due to a lack of precautionary measures.
However, photos of the accident scene show that the metal post had been kept leaning on the wall and was not securely mounted.
The ministry stressed that no accidents had occurred before Saturday despite large vehicles driving through Izzudeen Magu, including numerous lorries and pickups during a float parade in late July.
“The post fell because a large container truck which came at a high speed, steered out of control and hit the post,” the ministry said.
The statement also expressed condolences to the family of the deceased and assured the ministry’s cooperation for the police investigation into the accident currently underway.
Azfa was a medical student studying in Russia. She was on her summer holidays and was due to leave the Maldives on Tuesday.
According to the police, the driver of the truck was unaware at the time that the metal post had fallen.
Local media reported that the post had been kept outside to be thrown out as garbage.
“It was not mounted or securely fastened, it was very unstable and it clearly should not have been kept on the road that way,” a source from the housing ministry who wished to remain anonymous told The Maldives Independent.
The source alleged that the ministry is “doing its best to portray this as an accident when it is the result of clear disregard for public safety.”
Iron rods and concrete bases used to mount Independence Day street decorations have been left on Malé’s streets a months after the celebratory activities ended.
In the wake of the accident, social media users have circulated photos of decorative items left unattended, urging the housing ministry to clean up the capital’s streets.
The ‘Minivan 50’ (Independence 50) office under the home ministry has started removing the decorations today.
Azfa’s death is a result of negligence by the Govt.Housing Min Muiz must be held accountable. My deepest condolences to the grieving family
— Eva Abdulla (@evattey) August 30, 2015
faruva kuda kamun Zuvanege furana gelumun dhanvaru myhun neri gen minivan50 ge echethi tha adhi kiriya nagan fashafi pic.twitter.com/GPv2rBZ89A
— Mohamed Afsal (@afsal_afey) August 31, 2015
How do you secure a heavy 10ft Basketball hoop pole on soft sand without a concrete foundation? black magic? @MMuizzu
— fazail lutfi (@fazaillutfi) August 31, 2015
If he had not forcibly taken over Male from City Council I would not call for the resignation of Muiz over this sad incident. He must now.
— Fayyaz Ismail (@faya_i) August 30, 2015
This doesn’t look like something that is secured well, despite what the housing ministry’s statement says. pic.twitter.com/3TbMSCwbeu
— MP Rozaina Adam (@Roxeyna) August 30, 2015
Minivan 50 mivee rayyithunnah bodu nurakkalakaa biruveri kamakah pic.twitter.com/Vcaapaxgqk
— #MyNation# (@Raxxxaq) August 30, 2015
This article was updated at 7:11pm on August 31 to include the opposition party’s call for the housing minister’s resignation.