UNESCO World Heritage Centre expressed regret and sadness over the collapse of parts of the iconic House of Wonders (Bait Al Ajaib) in Stone Town in Zanzibar on Friday while Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Tourism strongly denied a fake news circulating about the collapse of the iconic monument.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the ministry denied reports that collapse took place after the restoration. “The restoration was not completed and stopped since the beginning of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic,” the ministry tweeted.
The ministry said the project is being handled by an Italian company “that bears what is happening at the site as per the contract and the project has a comprehensive insurance coverage,” the statement said.
The ministry also offered condolences to two of the workers who lost their lives at the time when the building collapsed.
The House of Wonders is one of the outstanding monuments, a property inscribed on the World Heritage List since 2000. A section of the House of Wonders that collapsed was undergoing renovations and the restoration was funded by Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Tourism.
“We are in contact with the Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority (STCDA) which is currently carrying rescue operation and will soon be starting a preliminary assessment of the damage caused by the collapse,” said Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNSECO World Heritage Centre in a statement on its website on Friday
“We have confidence that the authorities will carry out the necessary emergency actions and assessments to understand the causes of this damage and propose solutions for the safeguarding of this monument which is an essential component contributing to the Outstanding Universal Value of the site. UNESCO stands ready to support the ongoing efforts and we are with the United Republic of Tanzania in facing this disaster,” she added.
Zanzibar’s President Hussein Mwinyi arrived at the scene where he was briefed on the rescue mission which was under way at the historic building.
The House of Wonder, a large ceremonial palace built by Sultan Barghash, is one of the town’s landmarks among other major buildings that date from the 18th and 19th centuries.