Taipei / AFP
As rescuers continue the grim task of digging bodies from the rubble of an apartment complex that collapsed in a Taiwan earthquake, anger is growing over the shoddy construction of the building and the island’s questionable safety record.
The Wei-kuan building was the only high-rise to crumble completely in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that shook the southern city of Tainan before dawn Saturday, with 61 confirmed dead so far, mostly from the complex.
More than 60 residents remain buried in the ruins and the chances of finding survivors are slim.
Prosecutors say there were “flaws” in the building as they question the developer and two associates on charges of professional negligence resulting in death.
Distraught relatives of residents told AFP they had complained over cracks in the walls of the building. Pictures from the disaster site show tin cans and foam were used as fillers inside the concrete.
Experts say that cost-cutting shortcuts have long dogged the construction industry in Taiwan.
“Because of competition, for a long period of time, the local construction industry has not been well managed,” said Chern Jenn-chuan, civil engineering professor at National Taiwan University.
The disaster has struck a nerve with the public, increasingly embittered by a string of disasters, from food safety scandals to a water park explosion that left 15 dead.
“So-called competitiveness in Taiwan is all cost-oriented, so this kind of situation isn’t a surprise at all,” said a post on Taiwan’s popular PTT online forum after the building collapse.
“They just collect the money and it’s not their responsibility anymore,” another user commented.
Prosecutors said there were too few steel reinforcing bars in parts of the building, and that the developer may have used a borrowed licence for the construction of the property.
Engineers helping at the rescue site added that some walls many have been knocked down on the ground floor, which housed part of a multi-storey electronics store.
“Apparently in this case, there were indeed flaws in the construction of the building,” a court statement said Wednesday.