Sun, Sep 26, 1999 - Page 1 News List

Building firms under investigation

QUAKE DAMAGE Jerry-building might have exacerbated quake damage, according to prosecutors

STAFF WRITER WITH AGENCIES

Prosecutors' offices throughout Taiwan have begun investigating construction companies' responsibility for the heavy losses suffered in Tuesday's quake that devastated parts of Nantou, Taichung and Taipei counties.

Lin Yi-hsin (林義信), owner of the construction company that built the "Doctor's Home," a 12-story building in Hsinchuang in Taipei County which collapsed in the quake, was arrested on Friday along with the building's architect, Lien Chih-chien (連志謙).

Prosecutor Chen Ming-hsiang (陳銘祥) of the Panchiao Prosecutor's Office ordered an immediate freeze on the assets and property of Lin, Lien and others related to the construction of the building.

Prosecutor's offices in Taipei are charging some involved in the construction of buildings that collapsed with negligence and public endangerment.

The Taichung Prosecutor's Office yesterday barred 13 construction company owners and architects from leaving the country, including the owner of the Cheng-hsiang Construction Company (晟翔建設), the company that constructed the Taichung Dynasty Community (台中王朝) complex and Tung-shih Dynasty Community (東勢王朝) complex. Both residential communities suffered serious damage during the earthquake.

However, by taking no action against the Hung-tsong Construction Company (宏總建設), builders of the New Life Park Community (新生活公園) complex in Taiping (太平) in Taichung County, however, the government has angered some residents.

Two of the four high-rise buildings in the New Life Park Community suffered serious damage during the quake. Eleven people in the community of 345 apartments died as a result of the disaster, as of yesterday, and an unknown number are still trapped in the rubble.

A self-help association (自救會) of residents discovered that empty salad oil bottles were used in the construction of the building's structural walls. They also found that steel reinforcing bars in the concrete were not solidly attached to each other.

The self-help association in Tali (大里) in Taichung County expressed similar concerns. As of noon yesterday, 19 were dead and 17 missing in rubble that once was the Taichung Dynasty Community complex.

Wang Chuan-yi (王傳益), head of the association, stated that buildings collapsed due to shoddy construction. Residents also expressed concern over the sluggish pace of the current investigation

While the prosecutor's office has barred the owner of the construction company from leaving the country, the owner's relatives are not subject to the same limitations. Residents fear the owner will transfer the building's ownership rights to his relatives, complicating prosecution of the case.

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