5 charged over deadly collapse of Taiwan building after quake

Rescue workers look for survivors in the remains of a building which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, on Feb 8, 2016.
Rescue workers look for survivors in the remains of a building which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan, Taiwan, on Feb 8, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

TAIPEI (AFP) - Five people were charged on Thursday (April 7) over the deadly collapse of an apartment block in Taiwan during an earthquake, including the building's owner, with prosecutors saying "corners were cut" that made the complex dangerous.

The collapse of the Wei-kuan building during the 6.4-magnitude quake in the southern city of Tainan in February left 115 dead.

It was the only high-rise to crumble completely, with questions raised over shoddy building methods.

The building company's owner Lin Ming-hui, his design department's manager, two architects and a structural technician were charged on Thursday with negligence leading to death and injury.

"Lin Ming-hui for the purpose of saving architectural blueprint fees and construction costs... went so far as to cut corners and increase floor area... affecting the structural safety of Wei-kuan building," Tainan district prosecutors office said in a statement.

Some reinforcement parts were found to be inadequate in the construction, "significantly reducing the building's seismic resilience," the statement said.

"The building collapsed as it couldn't maintain its structural integrity, causing residents to be trapped, leading to serious harm and deaths as a result," prosecutors added.

The safety of the building was called into question immediately after the disaster, when metal cans and foam were found to have been used as fillers in the concrete and residents said there had been cracks in the structure.

The Wei-kuan building had 96 apartments and was completed in 1994, before a new building code was brought in following a devastating earthquake that left 2,400 people dead in 1999.

The building collapse struck a nerve with Taiwan's public, increasingly embittered by a string of disasters, from food safety scandals to a water park explosion last year that left 15 dead.