Tue, Nov 19, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Suspension bridge snaps in Sanchih

ASSESSMENT:Officials said exposure to wind and rain caused corrosion to the bolts of the bridge, but human error was also a likely contributing factor

By Wen Yu-te, Lai Hsiao-tung and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

A pedestrian suspension bridge at a water reservoir park in New Taipei City (新北市) collapsed on Sunday afternoon, causing four people to fall into the shallow streambed under the bridge. One woman remained in hospital with serious injuries yesterday.

The structure plunged down after steel cables on the bridge snapped, throwing pedestrians on the bridge from a height of a three-story building.

“Our family was walking across the bridge, and we were two-thirds of the way across when it collapsed,” a 22-year-old victim surnamed Yeh (葉) said.

“Suddenly I heard a loud sound, and saw my mother falling down in front of me. Then more cables snapped and I fell into the water. At the time, I thought I would die,” Yeh said. “My mind went blank for a while. I was in pain, but my biggest concern was my mother.”

“I looked around and saw that my sister and her boyfriend had also fallen. I glanced back and saw about 10 other pedestrians on the twisted bridge deck trying to get back onto the bank,” he added.

Yeh said his mother sustained serious injuries to her neck and spine, and she lost consciousness for some time, while his sister and her boyfriend climbed out to safety with minor injuries.

After medics arrived, Yeh’s mother was rushed to a local hospital and was under observation in the intensive care ward.

“It was our first visit to the area. We never thought such a suspension bridge could collapse. It was very frightening. We will never go back to that place again,” Yeh said.

The 55m long bridge over the Balian Stream (八連溪) in a water reservoir park near the northern coast in New Taipei City’s Sanchih District (三芝區) was opened for use in October 2007.

According to a preliminary assessment, engineers and inspectors yesterday found heavy corrosion at the joints and the screw bolts in the bridge deck where the suspension cables snapped.

District officials said the corrosion was a result of long-term exposure to wind and rain blowing inland from the sea, which have high saline levels.

However, inspectors said human error and inadequate maintenance were also likely to be contributing factors in the accident.

Officials said mandatory bridge safety tests were conducted on a monthly basis, while an annual inspection was done by engineering firms.

The most recent annual inspection was carried out just two months ago, which found problems with the bridge’s concrete anchors, a Sanchih District official said, adding that repair work was done by a contracting company in September.

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