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Rescuers at the scene of the collapsed bridge on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Taiwan investigators look at whether fatal bridge collapse was caused by structural problems

  • Six people died after Nanfangao bridge on northeast of island collapsed onto fishing boats on Tuesday
  • Report published in 2016 found problems with the expansion joints on structure but mangers said it had since fixed a number of problems

Investigators on Thursday were examining possible structural problems surrounding a bridge that collapsed in northeastern Taiwan, killing six people.

A 2016 report on bridges in Yilan county had found problems with the expansion joints on the Nanfangao bridge, which was completed in 1998 and collapsed on Tuesday morning, the official Central News Agency reported. The joints are designed to absorb changes in temperature.

CNA said the report had said that motorists could sense a difference of levels on either side of the joints, possibly as a result of warping or other problems.

The company responsible for managing the bridge, Taiwan International Ports Corporation, earlier said it had cleaned the joints and fixed other problems such as rusted steel reinforcements and crash barriers in 2017 and 2018.

Investigators are also looking into the condition of the bridge’s steel cables, including the possibility of dangerous levels of corrosion.

The bridge, which is 140 metres (460ft) long and 18 metres high, collapsed into a bay on Taiwan’s lightly populated east coast, about 60km (40 miles) southeast of Taipei.

A typhoon swept by the island earlier, but the weather was sunny when the bridge collapsed, and it was unclear whether the storm was a factor.

Divers were continuing the search for the sixth victim killed when the bridge collapsed onto fishing boats below.

Six people were killed and 10 injured in the accident. Photo: AFP

Another 10 people were injured, including the driver of an oil tanker truck that was crossing the bridge at the time of its collapse.

Taiwan’s military deployed a floating platform to help workers remove debris and extract crushed boats.

The ports corporation said it would provide T$5 million (US$160,860) in compensation to the families of those killed. They were identified as Wartono, 29, Ersona, 32, and Mohamad Domiri, 28, all from Indonesia, along with Philippine citizens Andree Serencio, 44, George Impang 46, and Romulo Escalicas, 29, who remains missing.

Indonesians and Filipinos are drawn to work in Taiwan’s vast fishing fleet, where conditions can be difficult but wages are much higher than at home.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Possible structural issues examined in bridge collapse