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Taiwan indicts three over deadly quake building collapse

A Taiwanese developer was indicted today over the partial collapse of a building that killed 14 people during an earthquake in February, prosecutors said.

The building’s architect and a civil engineer were also charged with causing death and injury by professional negligence, punishable by a maximum five-year jail term.

The lower floors of the 12-storey Yun Tsui residential building — which also housed a restaurant and hotel — pancaked when a 6.4-magnitude quake struck the tourist hotspot of Hualien on February 6.

A total of 17 people died across the eastern coastal town, 14 of them in the Yun Tsui building.

Developer Liu Ying-lin was unlicensed and did not have the necessary engineering qualifications but oversaw the building’s construction instead of contracting a professional firm, said Hualien District Prosecutors Office.

“Yun Tsui building collapsed within eight seconds of the earthquake… due to serious flaws in design, supervision and construction,” said Wang Yi-jen, a spokesman for the office.

The flaws included inadequate pillars and reinforcing steel that significantly weakened the building’s seismic capacity, he added.

Despite its comparative wealth and a reputation for cutting-edge technology, Taiwan still often sees deadly building collapses during quakes.

The Hualien quake came exactly two years to the day after a similar sized tremor struck the western city of Tainan, killing 117 people — most in a single apartment block which tumbled.

Five people were later found guilty over the disaster, including the developer and two architects, for building an inadequate structure.

The island’s worst tremor in recent decades was a 7.6-magnitude quake in September 1999 that killed around 2,400 people.

That quake ushered in stricter building codes but many of Taiwan’s older buildings remain perilously vulnerable to even moderate quakes.

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