Taipower, Tainan, Kaohsiung demand compensation for demolition gone awry
Taipei, April 2 (CNA) State-run utility Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) and the Tainan and Kaohsiung city governments have vowed to seek compensation for the costs of a power outage caused when a cement company's demolition project went wrong on Friday and knocked over a transmission tower bordering its property.
The electricity tower operated by Taipower collapsed at 3:40 p.m. Friday when hit by a 52-meter tall storage silo at Southern Cement Corp.'s Kaohsiung plant that fell the wrong way as it was being torn down.
The tower's collapse cut off the flow of electricity to trains operated by Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp. (THSRC) and the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) for up to seven hours, affecting 79 THSRC and 30 TRA trains and around 120,000 passengers.
TRA and THSRC resumed operations at 9 p.m. and 10:40 p.m., respectively, that night.
According to Taipower, more than 160 workers and over 40 vehicles were dispatched to repair the transmission tower and 69KV power line before train services were resumed.
"We will seek compensation from the company responsible for the accident," Taipower said in a statement.
Meanwhile, to ease traffic congestion caused by the accident, neighboring Tainan set up an emergency response team to direct traffic near the affected stations and had 90 shuttle buses evacuate passengers from stranded trains, Mayor Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) said on Facebook on Friday night.
Huang said Tainan will demand that Southeast Cement pay compensation for the expenses and administrative costs incurred in dealing with the aftermath of the accident.
Kaohsiung also demanded that Southeast Cement compensate the city for related damages and the inconvenience it caused.
After visiting the site of the accident and looking at video of the concrete storage silo being taken down, Deputy Kaohsiung Mayor Charles Lin (林欽榮) believed that the demolition was not carried out in accordance with approved plans, the city said in a statement.
Chen Hai-tung (陳海通), an official with the Kaohsiung Public Works Bureau, said the plans required the contractor to dismantle the cement storage tank in three stages and take necessary precautions, but the contractor tried to take it down recklessly in one go, as though it was "cutting down a tree."
Four people involved in the demolition project are under investigation for offenses against public safety and were summoned by Kaohsiung prosecutors for questioning Saturday, including two with the project's contractor surnamed Wang (王) and Lin (林).
The others questioned were the person in charge of occupational safety at Southeast Cement surnamed Tseng (曾) and the crane driver, also surnamed Tseng (曾), who got out of his crane and ran off just before it was toppled by the falling storage tank.
Kaohsiung authorities have also decided to fine the company NT$6.07 million (US$211,633) for failing to comply with safety, health, and environmental protection regulations and standards related to demolition work.
Southeast Cement issued a statement on its website apologizing for the accident.
The contractor that undertook the demolition performed inappropriately, leading to the storage silo falling in the wrong direction and crushing the transmission tower, for which "our company deeply apologizes," the statement said.
The demolition project was undertaken by Chiung Te Construction (炯德營造), which was forced to shut down by Kaohsiung authorities following Friday's accident.
The contractor had previously been fined for two demolition project accidents in recent years -- one involving a worker who sustained severe injuries in 2019 and another in November 2021 involving the death of a worker.
Both cases were caused by a lack of safety precautions taken when doing the work.
The legislative caucus of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) said Kaohsiung authorities should be held responsible for negligence in supervising the project.
KMT also demanded that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications deliver a report to the public on its safety management mechanisms for train services.
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