Sun, Nov 23, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taipei 101 Mall back in business

SHOPPING SUSPENDED The newly opened mall had been forced to evacuate shoppers after steel bars and plates fell from the 91st floor of the adjacent building

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPROTER

The Taipei 101 Mall, which had been forced to suspend business because of a construction accident on Friday, was allowed to reopen yesterday at noon after passing a Taipei City Government security check, city officials announced yesterday.

But the Taipei Financial Center Corp, which owns the office tower adjoining the shopping mall where the accident happened, will not be permitted to resume its construction work before the company tables a complete plan about construction security before the city government, said Chen Wei-jen (陳威仁), head of the city's Public Works Bureau. Chen led a group of city officials to inspect the building yesterday after the accident.

"We will not allow the construction work to resume as long as the security concerns have not been settled," Chen said on the plaza of the shopping mall, which was crowded with shoppers waiting for the mall's reopening in the rain.

"We will soon form a special team to inspect the building every day without prior notification, to ensure the safety of construction work being completed," Chen said.

On Friday morning at around 10am, two workers on the office tower were trying to operate a three-ton swing crane to move a batch of steel bars and plates from the 90th floor to the 91st floor. However, because of strong winds and clumsy handling of the crane, hundreds of the bars and plates fell from a height of about 440m and caused slight injuries to two pedestrians and two workers. Twenty or so cars were also damaged, according to investigators.

Another 70 steel plates smashed into the sports field of the Hsinyi Elementary School campus, which is located more than 300m from the building. Fortunately, no child was hurt or facilities damaged.

An expert said if people were hit directly by the falling steel plates, the aftermath would have been severe.

"It would be like being hit head-on by a motorcar travelling at 320kph, because of the acceleration effect of gravity," said Lin Min-ray (林明瑞), physics professor at the National Taiwan Normal University.

"The speed or velocity of a falling steel plate is a lot higher than the mere wielding of a sharp knife," he said.

The two workers faced charges of public endangerment and the city's Bureau of Labor Affairs on Friday fined the Taipei Financial Center Corp NT$150,000.

Together with Bureau of Labor Affairs Director Yen Hsiang-luan (嚴祥鸞) and other officials, Chen inspected the building story by story from the 34th floor up to see if any of the steel plates landed on other floors, and ordered the crane to be moved from the construction site.

Chen also expressed his discontent with the Taipei Financial Center Corp's crisis management after the accident.

"The company spent three hours to evacuate shoppers after the accident happened, which showed their carelessness toward security issues," Chen said, adding that the reputation of the city government who promised to provide "the safest and best shopping environment" to citizens was damaged by the accident.

"We will definitely enhance our emergency management and meet the city government's demands," said Lin Hong-ming (林鴻明), the president of Taipei 101 Mall.

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