Taipei, Feb. 10 (CNA) A victim claimed on social media Wednesday that the removal of columns, beams and walls in the lower stories of an apartment complex in Tainan contributed to its collapse in the Feb. 6 earthquake that left dozens dead.
The woman surnamed Cheng said on her Facebook page that all of the beams, columns and walls on the first to fourth floors of buildings A, B and C of the Weiguan Jinlong complex were removed seven years ago by their owner, a Ms. Lan, to be able to rent the space for more money.
Cheng, who supported her claim with a picture and written statement, said the structural changes were reported to local authorities but were not pursued.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, 44 of the 46 confirmed deaths resulting from the quake occurred in the collapsed apartment complex in Tainan's Yongkang District, the source of almost all of the casualties in Taiwan resulting from the earthquake.
About 73 adults and 21 minors are still believed to be trapped in the rubble of the apartment complex, comprised of nine apartment buildings labeled A to I.
Cheng Ming-chang (鄭明昌), president of the Tainan Professional Civil Engineers Association, said a building's structure would be weakened if all of the beams, columns and walls were removed from any story of the building.
After viewing the picture, Cheng said that if what the netizen said was true, then the structural changes might have had something to do with the collapse of the buildings and should be investigated.
Cheng, who has been assisting search and rescue operations at the disaster site, said he hoped people will provide similar evidence to the Tainan City government or his association.
He said his association will prepare a structural assessment report of the buildings and submit its observations to prosecutors, who are investigating the possible use of substandard materials and methods by the construction company responsible for the complex.
(By Yang Sz-ruei and Kuo Chung-han; click here for the full coverage of the earthquke aftermath.)