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Monday 16 December 2019

Taiwan arrests developers of toppled quake building

More than 100 people are believed to be trapped in the debris of the Weiguan Golden Dragon building (AP)
More than 100 people are believed to be trapped in the debris of the Weiguan Golden Dragon building (AP)

Three building firm bosses have been arrested on negligence charges following the collapse of an apartment building in southern Taiwan which killed dozens of people.

They have been detained on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death.

Tainan District Prosecutors Office said Lin Ming-hui and architects Chang Kui-an and Cheng Chin-kui were suspected of having overseen shoddy construction of the 17-storey Weiguan Golden Dragon building, which keeled over following an earthquake on Saturday.

The prosecutors office said the three were detained to prevent collusion or other acts that could disrupt the investigation.

One of the accusations states only half as many fasteners had been used in the supporting columns than were required.

The death toll in the 6.4 magnitude quake stands at 44, with all but two of the deaths coming in the building collapse. More than 100 people are believed to still be trapped in the debris.

The broadcaster FTV and other Taiwanese media said Lin had changed his name after a previous bankruptcy and had run multiple property development companies in Tainan in an apparent attempt to avoid creditors and fleeced clients.

Although the shallow quake was potentially devastating, few buildings were damaged as a result of strict construction standards in force in Taiwan, an island frequently struck by temblors.

The Weiguan Golden Dragon building, built in 1989, was the only major structure to collapse in Saturday's quake.

Most of the 320 people rescued from the disaster were saved in the hours immediately after the quake, in which the building's foundation and lower floors gave way before it toppled on to its side.

Earthquakes rattle Taiwan frequently. Most are minor and cause little or no damage, though a magnitude 7.6 quake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people. More stringent building standards were introduced following that disaster and appear to have been tightly enforced.

The quake struck during the most important family holiday in the Chinese calendar, the Lunar New Year.

The extended Lunar New Year holiday officially started on Monday, but celebrations in Taiwan have been subdued.

PA Media

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