Gwangju Tragedy Should Have Been Prevented

      June 11, 2021 14:04

      A building that was being demolished in the southwestern city of Gwangju collapsed onto a bus arriving on the roadside in front, killing nine people and injuring eight. A police investigation has revealed that the accident could have been avoided if some precautionary measures had been taken.

      The company contracted to demolish the building apparently failed to follow the plan it submitted to the city to tear down the structure from the top down. The building collapsed because it was demolished starting in the middle, and the structure was just 3 to 4 m from a busy street and a bus stop just in front of it. It would not have been difficult to forecast what could happen if the building collapsed. But the demolition company did not bother to restrict traffic or move the bus stop, while the staffer in charge of safety was not even at the scene when the accident happened. The building is said to have displayed tell-tale signs of an imminent collapse, including a loud tearing noise, but while workers scattered they warned nobody else. This accident could have been prevented if the demolition had been carried out in orderly stages according to the approved plan.

      The timing of the demolition was also a problem. The building collapsed onto the bus at 4:22 p.m. when traffic was approaching the rush hour. Was there a particular reason to demolish the building at busy time like that?

      This accident is reminiscent of a tragedy in Jamwon-dong, Seoul in July of 2019, where a building that was being demolished collapsed onto the street in front of it, killing one person and injuring three others. The government said it would come up with measures to prevent such tragedies from happening again, but two years later the same thing occurred. The same politicians who bitterly criticized the former administration for disasters on its watch now also failed to prevent them.

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