[EDITORIALS]It must not happen againThe arson attack in the subway station in Daegu yesterday could have been contained. Lack of vigilance caused the enormous tragedy. A comprehensive lack of safety systems, such as adequate air circulation, a train full of combustibles and crews not trained for such an emergency, contributed to the second largest subway accident in the world history.
Such potential safety failures had been identified through disasters in the past that were caused by human error, such as the collapse of the Seongsu Bridge in 1994 and the collapse of the Sampoong Department Store in 1995. But people seem to have never learned their lesson.
What we have to do now is turn our attention to analyzing the root of the problem so that we can deter possible copycat crimes and similar catastrophes.
The walls, ceilings and seats of the subway trains in operation are composed of materials that easily catch fire, and the floor materials contain chloride substances that give off poisonous gases when set afire. In foreign countries, fire-proof materials must be used for the interiors of subway trains.
The affected station was reportedly turned into a gas chamber shortly after the attack because there was not enough facilities to eliminate the hazardous gases and pump in fresh air. In other words, the government and constructors focused too much on economy at the expense of the safety of passengers.
The government and subway management can be further faulted. Unlike in foreign countries where fire detectors are installed in the driver's compartment and the passenger area, such requirements are not even mentioned in the safety rules in Korea. Lackluster crews also contributed to the tragedy. We believe enhanced safety education is necessary for both subway crews and passengers.
The site of the subway accident was designated as "special disaster area," and we expect appropriate follow-up measures. In the past a flood site was designated as a special zone, but administrative and financial aid were delayed because of "investigations." For the sake of the victims, their families and Daegu residents, the government needs to take steps quickly. It must also be on guard against copycat crimes, such as the threat to blow up Seoul Subway line No.1 and an attempt to torch a Suwon night club.