We’ve seen this tragedy before
The sudden collapse of a 5-story building being demolished for redevelopment in Gwangju, South Jeolla atop a city bus killed nine people aboard the bus and seriously injured eight more on Wednesday. The stories of the nine victims are truly heart-wrenching. The tragic accident seems to be a man-made disaster.
We cannot understand why such an accidents can take place on a roadside in broad daylight. The authorities must hold all parties involved in the mishap accountable and come up with measures to prevent such tragic accidents in the future. The tragedy reminds us of the collapse of another building in Seoul in May 2019, which caused four casualties. At the time, the CEO of a demolition company and a construction supervisor were arrested for ignoring safety measures required on construction sites in Korea. The company was found to have started the demolition from the first floor to save the cost of using a crane.
The accident in Gwangju doesn’t seem to be any different. As an ongoing joint investigation of the accident suggests, even basic safety guidelines were not followed by workers of the demolition company.
It turns out that demolition workers escaped the site after sensing strange signs shortly before the collapse, but did not warn anyone else. The investigators also must find out if the police took measures to control traffic around the building.
Although the road was only 3 meters (10 feet) to 4 meters away from the building, the demolition company did not take any safety measures in advance. Instead, makeshift cloth-covered scaffolds were installed on the building, which could not protect people’s lives. There was no steel beam supporting the scaffold and no protected tunnel for passengers to go through safely. The city and district office did not move the bus stop temporarily.
The disintegration of the five-story building also suggests fundamental problems with the way the company demolishes structures. The authorities must find if it tore down the structure according to its original plan and why a construction supervisor was not there.
Above all, the authorities must check if a redeveloper attempted to construct a new building fast enough to maximize his gains while real estate prices are soaring under the Moon Jae-in administration. The authorities must find if the redeveloper took safety measures before the levelling.
The police are looking into possible collusion between the redeveloper and construction officials from the district office and City Hall after summoning suspects. We hope such accidents do not happen again.