An investigation into the collapse of the Nanfangao Bridge (南方澳大橋) last year found that it had not undergone mandatory inspection since 2016 and that the asphalt pavement had added to its weight.
The bridge collapsed at 9:30am on Oct. 1 , killing six people who were working on fishing boats below it, and injuring nine fishers, three rescuers and one oil tank driver who was driving through it when the accident occurred.
The Taiwan Transportation Safety Board, which conducted the investigation, said the cable-stayed bridge was supported by 13 suspension cables.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
Except for cable No. 1 and No. 13, which had 17 steel strands, each of the remaining suspension cables had 13 steel strands.
Each cable was covered by a long sheath and was fastened by anchor heads at both ends, the board added.
With the aid of footage provided by Coast Guard Administration surveillance cameras, investigators established the sequence of the bridge collapse, the board said.
After the truck drove past cable No. 11, the bridge and the arch above it were visibly shaking, with the bridge beginning to drop slightly at 9:30:02am.
About 0.13 seconds later, the sheath covering cable No. 8 fell off, followed by those covering cable Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 7. At 9:30:03am, the west end of the bridge slid down the pier, followed by the east end of the bridge.
The broken parts hit the water at about 9:30:05am, and the arch stopped shaking at 9:30:09am.
Investigators examined the bridge’s 177 steel strands, and found that some had either become untwisted or detached from their anchor heads, while others showed signs of corrosion, said board member Guo Jen-hwa (郭振華), a professor at National Taiwan University.
Guo said the No. 10 suspension cable was fastened using two 14-hole anchor heads, with each having one hole unused.
Theoretically, the unused holes should be the same on both anchor heads, but investigators found that one unused hole was near the center of the anchor head and the other was close to the rim, he added.
The bridge, which was built by the Yilan County Government, opened for traffic in November 1998. Ownership of the bridge was transferred from the county government to the Maritime and Port Bureau when Taiwan International Ports Corp was established in 2012.
The port company was in charge of maintaining the bridge, the board said.
Inspection records showed that the county government inspected the bridge seven times between 2000 and 2016, but none listed suspension cables or the anchor heads as must-check items.
The bridge has not been inspected since it was turned over to the bureau on April 28, 2016, investigators found.
Based on the Directorate-General of Highways’ maintenance manual, the bridge should have been inspected every two years.
The records showed that 60 maintenance projects for the bridge were carried out between 2005 and last year, with one being to apply new asphalt pavement on the bridge.
The bridge’s pavement should be 8cm to 9.2cm thick based on the original design, but the investigation found that the average thickness of the bridge’s pavement was 16cm, twice its designed capacity.
The bridge was accessed by vehicles carrying wave blocks four times between October 2016 and September last year, as well as by those transporting gravel and construction waste between September 2018 and January last year, the board said.
Thomas Wang (王興中), chief investigator of the bridge incident, said they would further investigate if the contractor had followed the architect’s design.
Whether corrosion, added pavement weight or allowing overweight vehicles to access the bridge led to its collapse would be the focus of the follow-up investigation, the board said.
A final investigation report is due after September, it said.
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