TAIPEI, Taiwan - A collapsed section of an under-construction elevated railway at a Taichung Mass Rail Transit System (Taichung Metro) construction site caused four deaths and four injuries late Friday afternoon; three of the dead were construction workers at the site.
The injured victims were taken to China Medical University Hospital and Tzu Chi Hospital in Taichung. As of press time, emergency teams on the scene were attempting to raise the collapsed section in search for additional survivors and victims. One patient remains in a critical condition with major internal bleeding.
The section broke apart and fell four stories, killing both construction workers and bystanders on the busy intersection of Wenxin Road and Beitun Road. The disaster area is situated between the future G4 and G5 stations of the Green Line, under construction since 2009. Witnesses indicate that the area was not immediately sealed off to traffic following the incident.
Taichung City Mayor Lin Chia-lung cancelled his business itinerary in South Korea in response to the incident, and was scheduled to return to Taiwan close to midnight.
Cause of Collapse under Investigation
Due to initial reports, construction on the MRT was ongoing with the elevation of a steel rail when a 209-ton, 43-meter section of the elevated structure collapsed. The cause of the incident is under investigation, with scrutiny focusing on inadequate weight distribution for the construction crane. Initial analysis suggests that supporting wood pallets usually positioned at the base of the construction vehicle were not present. The construction firm operating the crane was unwilling to verify the vehicle's load capacity.
Workers from the construction company told reporters later yesterday evening that work on raising the steel rail was being expedited to meet a 4 am Saturday deadline from the Rapid Transit System Office of Taichung City. The fine for delayed construction was reported to be NT$110,000 (S$4,817).
The elevated section of the Taichung MRT Green Line was scheduled for completion in 2020. Mayor Lin demanded on Jan. 12 that construction be accelerated for a 2018 completion date.
Taipei City Officials Dispatched to Assist
Meanwhile Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je called on Deputy Mayor Charles Lin to coordinate with Taichung City Deputy Mayor Lin Ling-san. Both Section Chief Chien Je-hung of the Taipei City Construction Management Office and Central District Project Office Director Yu Nien-hsin of Taipei's Department of Rapid Transit Systems (DORTS) arrived in Taichung later in the evening to coordinate rescue efforts.
In addition, Presidential Office spokesman Charles Chen stated that the president was paying full attention to the unfolding situation and immediately directed the Executive Yuan to provide necessary assistance to the Taichung City Government.
Premier Mao Chi-kuo said that Taichung officials needed to strictly review construction safety conditions.