Taiwan earthquake: Building toppled by quake was known for its 'poor construction'

The two-decade-old building is the only major high-rise building to have completely collapsed in the city of two million people

Rescuers have painstakingly pulled more survivors from the remains of a high-rise block of flats that collapsed on Saturday in a powerful earthquake, as evidence emerged suggesting the building was known to be poorly constructed. 

The 6.4 magnitude earthquake on Saturday shook southern Taiwan and killed at least 26 people, 24 of whom were in the high-rise building. More than 100 remained buried in the building’s rubble. 

The government in Tainan, the worst-hit city, said that more than 170 people had been rescued from the 17-storey building, which folded like an accordion after the quake struck. 

The mother of one of the residents, Chen Yi-ting, said her daughter and son-in-law believed they had originally been turned down for a loan for the building because it was known for its poor construction.

The bank did not give the couple a reason for the loan refusal, according to Ms Chen’s mother, but one of the couple’s friends, who had ties to the bank, later told them that it had a policy of refusing loans to residents of the Wei-guan Golden Dragon building because of its concerns. Now Ms Chen, 35, and her husband, Lin Wu-chong, 38, are in intensive care in two separate hospitals in the southern city. Their seven-year-old daughter was killed.

The two-decade-old building is at the centre of rescue efforts. It was the only major high-rise building to have completely collapsed in the city of two million people. Its lower stories, filled with arcades of shops, pancaked on top of each other before the U-shaped complex toppled in on itself. 

A BBC report from the site showed polystyrene and tin cans had been used to reinforce the concrete, a known technique for scrimping on costs, according to the BBC.

“People from outside of the town, people like them, had no idea what was going on before they moved in,” Ms Chen’s mother, Kuo Yi-chien, explained as she waited in a hospital corridor outside the intensive-care unit where her daughter is.

Sixty-one-year-old Ms Kuo said residents of the building had long complained of many problems before the quake, such as tiles falling from walls, malfunctioning lifts and blocked pipes.

Tainan’s government said the building had not been listed as a dangerous structure, and Taiwan’s interior minister, Chen Wei-zen, said an investigation would examine whether the developer had cut corners.