Taiwan Earthquake: Was Faulty Construction The Reason Why The Wei-Guan Golden Dragon Building Collapsed?

Questions are being raised why the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building would crumble and fall, while other buildings in the area remained standing. When the magnitude-6.4 Taiwan earthquake hit the island and centered on the city of Tainan, the floors of the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building collapsed like a stack of pancakes. As rescuers carefully search for survivors, film crews, like the BBC, are finding strange things within the walls of the felled apartment building. It is these foreign, soft objects that could have led to the devastating collapse which killed over 20 people and left hundreds injured and/or unaccounted for.

A senior government official in the city of Tainan, Liu Shih-chung, reportedly said that the videotape captured by news cameras "suggested the possibility of structural problems related to poor-quality reinforced steel and cement."

The BBC-filmed footage that raises some alarming questions about the way the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building was constructed. Reuters' witnesses saw Styrofoam sheets and empty tin cans of cooking oil that were used to reinforce the pillars within the constructed concrete walls. Unfortunately, some companies do this as a way to cut their costs, and have more money in their pockets. They never figure the evidence will be revealed, and it usually takes a tragedy to expose their hidden work.

Tainan Mayor William Lai allegedly revealed that he has three teams of investigators hired to inspect the building. If the civil engineers find that the Styrofoam and tin cans compromised the structure in any way, the company responsible could face serious charges.
"When it's completed, we'll punish those who should be held accountable."
The Wei-guan Golden Dragon was a 17-story building and, so far, approximately 124 people are still missing. They believe that many of the residents are buried in the rubble or trapped in the lower floors.

Reuters reports that the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building showed evidence that it was not that safe years before the Taiwan earthquake hit.

One couple, Chen Yi-ting and her husband, Lin Wu-chong, wanted to buy an apartment in the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building for their new home. They were moving from an outlying district with their infant daughter and were new to the area. When they went to the bank to apply for a loan, the bank refused their application without giving the couple a reason for their decision.

Chen Yi-ting and Lin Wu-chong needed a place to live, so they went to another bank and had no trouble in securing their mortgage loan. The couple moved into the apartment building with their infant daughter.

A friend of Chen Yi-ting and Lin Wu-chong had connections with the first bank where the couple tried to secure their loan. According to Chen Yi-ting's mother, the friend discovered Lin's loan application was rejected because it was for an apartment at the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building. The bank has a policy to refuse mortgage loans to anyone wanting to live in that building because of its poor construction.

Right now, Chen Yi-ting is in intensive care with a cracked skull, and Lin Wu-chong is in a different intensive care unit at a different hospital suffering from damaged lungs. However, the real tragedy is with their 7-year-old daughter, who was killed when the building fell.

Chen's mother, Kuo Yi-chien, is at the hospital waiting for good news on her daughter's condition. She told Reuters her daughter and son-in-law did not know the building was so unsafe until they completed the paperwork.

"People from outside of the town, people like them, had no idea what was going on before they moved in. They did not know the building was completed by the second developer after the first one went bust. They only found out after they signed the contract."
Kuo said that many residents living in the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building complained for years about the various problems they were having within the building. The complaints ranged from tiles falling off the walls, blocked pipes, and lifts that did not work all the time.
"We are simple minded people. We did not think it (the initial loan refusal) might have been for some other reason."
According to the Tainan government officials, the construction permit was legally obtained and the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building withstood the 1999 Taiwan earthquake. The license to begin construction was obtained in 1992, and the building was completed in 1994.
The use of Styrofoam and cooking oil tins is nothing new in the construction world and the same materials were found in many collapsed buildings when the 7.3 earthquake hit the city in 1999. The shoddy workmanship of contractors who cut corners was revealed in the pile of rubble that was laid open by the earthquake.

Taiwan's interior minister, Chen Wei-zen, said they would investigate the construction of the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building to determine whether the contractor is at fault. Meanwhile, many families continue to wait for news of their loved ones, while some families rejoice in being reunited and others mourn the loss of those who died.

The people who lived next to the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building watched as the the apartment complex was being built Yang Shu-mei, said that she and her neighbors questioned whether the building would stand, as they believed the workmanship was not up to standards.

"When it was being built, I looked at it and thought, only people from out of town would buy it. We local people would never dare to."

What do you think of the source of materials that the construction company used to build the Wei-guan Golden Dragon Building? Do you think they are at fault, or was it just a tragic accident caused by the Taiwan earthquake?

[Photo by Wally Santana/AP Images]