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17Sep92 USA: FLORIDA AUTHORITIES EXAMINE CLAIMS OF SHODDY HOUSING CONSTRUCTION AFTER HURRICANE.

American authorities are probing claims of shoddy housing construction in the hurricane-ravaged state of Florida.The State Attorney's office in Dade County is co-ordinating the investigation as estimates of the bill to repair the damage caused by hurricane Andrew rose to nearly £16,000 million.But contractors are trying to deflect criticism by blaming local authority building inspectors for not spotting the construction defects.Robert Buchert, president of the National Association of Home Builders, conceded there were problems with the way homes were constructed.But he said local building inspectors should have detected poor construction practices.Lawsuits have already been filed by homeowners alleging construction shortcuts. These include a lack of hurricane straps on roofs and skimping on nails.Construction standards and building regulations have also been slammed in a report from Texas A and M University and the National Wind Engineering Research Council.Dr Peter Sparks, professor of civil engineering at A and M, said: 'It's clear from the repeat pattern of damage that there has been negligence on the part of the house builders.'Andrew was not a particularly strong storm - it was the fourth time since 1926 that there had been winds that fierce - but the damage was out of all proportion to the hurricane itself.'Dr Sparks predicted 'an enormous amount of lawsuits' will follow the initial repair stage.- See page 14.