Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Collapse of the Splendor Hotel, Taichung

On the early Friday evening of July 15, at 6:45 p.m., roughly ten floors of scaffolding fell onto the public thoroughfare outside Taichung’s Splendor Hotel, critically injuring a 45 year old woman.
The Splendor, a 5-Star high rise, had been under extensive renovation with five tons of exposed steel scaffolding right on the sidewalk.
Officials are saying that a strong gust of wind knocked the massive structure into the busy street, injuring 12.
Construction crews, working round the clock, had not followed safety guidelines as they were under incredible pressure to finish the work.
It is another in a long line of engineering mishaps and needless tragedies the city has absorbed due to non-existent labor laws and safety regulations.
Five months ago, directly beneath my apartment, 12 people died when a fire broke out at the Ala Nightclub when an indoor flame dancer’s performance burned down the building.
In that disaster, kitchen staff were blocked off by flames and unable to escape due to fire doors that were locked from the outside.
That tragedy caused a backlash against all pub and city local nightlife, closing down a number of the popular “foreigner” hangouts under the guise of an “unlicensed” liquor crackdown. (Even my favorite Taiwanese Drunk came out to watch.)
The Splendor Hotel management said there would be a full investigation and accepts full responsibility in paying the critically injured woman’s medical bills.
Early the following Saturday morning I went to investigate, but clean-up crews had already cleared all of the debris away. There were some smashed up bus stands and a burned out tree, but all of the metal that had spilled out into the street was gone. Grim faced men in hard hats were back to work and it looked business as usual.
You know, you can sweep these problems away and pay off all the people you hurt, but until you fix the problem, until you end the palm greasing so inspectors look the other way and correct the labor and safety standards so workers and citizens just feel safe in their own city, well, you’ve just got chaos. My biggest fear is that the next time there is an accident, I’m somehow going to be standing right in the middle of it saying , I told ya so… buried under a couple tons of stone and steal where nobody hears a word I’m saying.

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