A large section of a 15-metre deep pit in Burwood partially collapsed forcing 10 university students from a nearby block of townhouses to flee.

Police say it is the second time in a week that residents have been evacuated near the site.

Once a petrol station, it is being turned into a medical and childcare centre with a double-storey underground car park.

WorkSafe, CFMEU, Monash Council and Yarra Valley Water representatives are assessing the damage, which is believed to have been caused by heavy rains.

No further excavation work will happen until it is deemed safe.

CFMEU safety manager Gerry Ayers said safety measures to prevent a collapse were not in place in the pit.

"Something so deep should have some type of contingency plan to prevent the collapse that occurred here," Dr Ayers told said.

"Whether it's retaining walls, or whether they shotcrete it and put rock anchors in, there are a number of options they can choose to do.

"We certainly don't want another Swanston Street wall collapse."

A nearby resident, who did not want to be named, heard a bang about 10pm.

"I didn't know what it was until I turned on the news this morning," she said.

On Tuesday, a back wall of the backyard of one of the townhouses was brought down.

Sarah Humphrey, who works at the Sphere Cafe, next door to the site, said construction started in January.

"We had no idea it wasn't being done right, but some people had noticed there were no retaining walls," Ms Humphrey told said.

"No one has told us much since. I'm sure if we were at risk, we'd be told."

Local shops have had their sewerage closed off and are using portable toilets while authorities work out how to solve the problem and stop it from occurring again in the future.


By Melissa Meehan
  • I documented a job once, probably 3/4 this depth and vertical slope.

    Engineers design was precast concrete and footing – no shotcrete. The approach was to excavate vertically leading up to installation of panels in the preceding day/s. Swimming pool near the adjoining boundary.

    First question you ask is what is holding it up in between?

    His answer – A couple of sleepless nights and hope.

  • This is inexcusable and heavy rain is what we have in Melbourne's winter – this to be factored into the planning. It would appear that regardless of rain, there were no proper supporting structures.

    Building is not rocket science. If we consider Europe, so many buildings structurally sound hundreds of years after being erected!

    This issue is not about the weather or rain. It is simply about proper process, solid structures and the safety of workers, and upon completion the safety of those residents, be they owners or renters. The problem revealed here is the need for competent persons, knowing what to do and prepared to do it. If the builder speaks English, reads Plans, did some reasonable training, has some appropriate experience and is keen to do the right thing, we're half way there. Of course he may have bought his licence, as so many thousands did. Then we come to the surveying firm – aside from Lacrosse, they have been capable of getting very big contracts. What is the connection? Can do properly if it suits and cut corners/sign off when extra profits to be made? Either way, publicity or not, no penalties will apply – the VBA will see this issue disappears, as always.