Kaohsiung MRT construction caves in, alarming residents

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

A construction site of the mass rapid transit system in Kaohsiung City caved-in again yesterday afternoon, causing one building to sink 30 meters and giving a dangerous lean to three others. This is the fourth major cave-in involving MRT construction work in three months. Officials in the largest city in southern Taiwan said the incident took place around 1:00 p.m. on the Orange MRT line along Linhai Road near the National Sun Yat-sen University.

The Department of Rapid Transit System (DRTS) blamed the soft composition of earth as well as the rapid loss of water and sand underground. Nonetheless, a three-storey building was reduced to two floors. None were hurt as panicking residents of the stores and apartments in the building and three other leaning buildings quickly ran out to the road. Cars parked nearby on the road were half buried. Workers used trucks to stack up sandbags and pump in premixed concrete in order to stem the loss of sand and soil. Members of the Kaohsiung City Council called for the immediate suspension of all construction work until the DRTS came up with solutions and guarantees for absolute safety. They also said Mayor Frank Hsieh should step down if the city government cannot effectively supervise the operations of the DRTS to protect the lives and properties of the people. Chou Li-liang, DRTS director, said it will still take some time to decide if all construction work should be put on hold. The first major MRT construction incident took place late on the evening of May 29 when the site on Tayung Road caved-in and gave a lean to residential apartments. The DRTS doled out NT$100 million as compensation for more than 100 people affected by the mishap. On June 20, the construction site at the intersection of Po-ai Road and Tungmeng Road suddenly sank. No people or apartments were affected. The third incident occurred July 15 as the construction work for an MRT station at the intersection of Chungshan Road and Pateh Road was halted when underground water caused another massive cave-in. Residents in Kaohsiung complained that they have been suffering from the slowdown in traffic flow since the construction of the MRT network started three years ago. Now they have to constantly fear the possible cave-in of the construction site. Civil engineering experts said human factors like negligence and lax management were the primary cause of the string of incidents. They noted that the softness of earth structure and underground water should not be used as the excuses. Otherwise, they said, it would be impossible for engineers to build the undersea tunnels.

The undersea tunnel constructed in Kaohsiung’s Chijing District decades ago is currently still bustling with busy vehicle transport services.