Thorough probes needed to find out root cause of collapse accident
It is astounding that a five-story building being demolished for redevelopment collapsed suddenly atop a bus killing nine people and seriously injuring eight more in Gwangju Wednesday. The victims were aboard the bus which had stopped just next to the demolition site. Diverse evidence from black box footage and surveillance cameras proves this was a man-made disaster.
This means the tragic accident could have been prevented, had the workers at the demolition site and relevant authorities paid more attention to safety. The workers allegedly heard a strange sound while they were drilling and evacuated the building hurriedly. Yet, passengers on the bus were totally unaware of that and had no time to avoid the sudden collapse.
Supervisors and the onsite workers should have closed the roads around the building immediately after reporting the signs of instability. On Thursday, the police booked four construction-related officials including the excavator operator on suspicion of negligence of duty. According to the investigation so far, relevant authorities had never taken any safety measures to prevent citizens and vehicles from passing by the urban renewal site where the disaster occurred.
The investigation also revealed that the developer failed to abide by the demolition manual as submitted to the district office. It violated rules that required setup of scaffolding for each floor and carrying out demolition in stages from the top down and from the outside wall to slab. Witnesses said the workers began the demolition from the third and lower floors of the five-story building though they were supposed to do it from the upper floors.
The authorities also failed to notify bus companies and the general public about the dangers of the demolition though the site was right behind a bus stop. The recent accident reminds us of a similar one which took place in May 2019 in Jamwon-dong, southern Seoul, in which a building undergoing demolition rained debris down on cars passing by, killing one woman. That disaster was also due to lapsed safety.
President Moon Jae-in ordered a swift and thorough investigation to find out the cause of the recent collapse and who are to blame. "President Moon instructed police and related agencies including the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to embark on an immediate and thorough investigation into the collapse," presidential spokeswoman Park Kyung-mee said in a press briefing Thursday.
Investigations should also be focused on possible connections between the developer and construction-related officials of the district office. There is a high possibility that the workers might have sped up the demolition with the concept of "time is money." Many developers have engaged in competition by promising speedy urban renewal to maximize their profits from development amid soaring real estate prices under the Moon administration.
From the onset, Moon has emphasized his administration would make its best efforts to realize a "Safe Republic of Korea" which can cope with any possible disasters around the clock. Yet this slogan has fallen flat. The authorities should find out the root cause of the recent accident to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future. The investigation should also be conducted to find out who should take responsibility.