Five jailed over deadly Taiwan building collapse

TAIPEI (AFP) - The owner of a building where foam and empty cans were used as filler in concrete support columns was jailed in Taiwan Friday (Nov 25) over the deaths of 115 people in an earthquake.

Four others - two architects, a structural technician and a designer - were also sent to prison over the collapse of the apartment complex, which crumbled when a 6.4 magnitude quake struck.

It was the only high-rise to be completely destroyed in the February quake in southern Taiwan, where building standards are generally high.

More than 100 others were injured in the disaster, with pictures showing metal cans and foam filler in the wreckage where solid concrete pillars should have been.

 
 

"There is layer after layer of major human error in the construction project, from structural analysis to design and architectural blueprint-making as well as the construction and supervision of the building project," a court statement said.

"We found the defendants guilty of professional negligence leading to death and sentenced them to the maximum jail term allowable," said court spokeswoman Kuo Jen-shiow.

The building company's owner, his design department manager, two architects and a structural technician were all jailed for five years and each fined Tw$90,000 (S$4,031).

Angry relatives gathered outside the court to denounce a sentence they said was too lenient.

"I hope the defendants will be locked up till the day they die," Pan Wan-ling, who lost her son and daughter-in-law in the building's collapse, was quoted by the Liberty Times as saying.

The Wei-kuan building had 96 apartments and was completed in 1994.

Taiwan brought in a new building code after a 1999 quake killed 2,400 people.