Maintenance report reveals problems on Yilan bridge 3 years ago
Taipei, Oct. 2 (CNA) A bridge in Yilan that collapsed Tuesday, killing at least five people, was found three years ago to have damaged expansion joints, according to a maintenance report released Wednesday by the transportation ministry.
The 2016 report on the state of all bridges in Yilan said that the expansion joints on the Nanfang'ao Bridge were "obviously warped, damaged and sagging."
Motorists could easily feel the difference in the levels on the two sides of the bridge between the joints, which are designed to hold parts together while safely absorbing temperature-induced expansion and contraction of building materials, said the maintenance report that was commissioned by the Yilan County government.
The report, compiled by Chien Hsin University of Science and Technology, advised that the joints be replaced.
Taiwan International Ports Corporation, Ltd. (TIPC), which managed the bridge, said Tuesday that from 2017 to 2018 it spent a total of NT$10 million (US$321,700) to clean the expansion joints and fix other problems on the bridge, such as rusted steel reinforcements and guardrails.
TIPC did not say whether it had replaced the problematic expansion joints in the wake of the 2016 maintenance report.
The report did not mention anything about the steel cables, which many experts have said were corroded and were the major cause of the bridge's collapse.
The bridge at the entrance to the port town of Nanfang'ao was commissioned by the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC)and built in 1996 by the Yilan government. Two years later, it was completed and its management was transferred to TIPC.
The Yilan government said the report did not reflect an official maintenance inspection of the bridge because it was not done by TIPC.
However, TIPC said it had paid for the inspection.
The engineering company MAA Group that designed the bridge said it could not determine what had caused the bridge to collapse because crucial broken parts of the structure had not yet been recovered.
Commenting on the speculations about corroded steel cables, MAA executive Hsieh Chen-huei (謝震輝) said if such a problem was noticed there was no way it would have been ignored.
TIPC President Chen Shao-liang (陳劭良) also commented on the issue, saying that if indeed the steel cables were corroded, that problem would not have been omitted from the 2016 maintenance report.
Meanwhile, the Public Construction Commission said it will examine all the evidence to determine the cause of the collapse. The Taiwan Transportation Safety Board said it is also looking into the matter.
Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) said that after the investigations, anyone found to have neglected their duties in the maintenance of the bridge will be held responsible.
Meanwhile, the MOTC said a new bridge will be rebuilt at the same location in three years' time.
The landmark bridge collapsed at about 9:30 a.m. the previous day, injuring 12 and killing at least five migrant workers as it crashed down on fishing boats in the port.
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