4 killed after collapse at bridge construction site

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4 killed after collapse at bridge construction site

Four workers were killed after steel construction supports linking two girder bridges in Yeongdo District, Busan, collapsed on Thursday.

Three workers were taken to a nearby hospital but were confirmed dead soon after, police said. One worker was found dead at the site after being buried under rubble.

The accident occurred when the workers were pouring concrete into a steel frame, which was supposed to be part of the elevated multilane overpass that carries traffic between Namhang Bridge and Bukhang Bridge, near the district’s I Zone Vill Apartments.

A confirmed cause for the collapse has yet to be announced, but police suspect that the steel structure failed to withstand the weight of the materials. They did not rule out natural effects such as strong winds.

Police have asked the National Forensic Service to examine the site and investigate the accident. The four workers plummeted 20 meters (65 feet) to the ground and were buried under the collapsed steel frame and debris.

“I heard an ear-throbbing sound, like a bomb, and the steel structure fell down,” said a 40-year-old resident who witnessed the accident.

While police said it’s not immediately clear what caused the collapse, some have raised questions as to whether the construction company, SK E&C, and its subcontractor pushed ahead to finish building early despite a tight schedule.

The construction of Bukhang Bridge was about 95 percent complete, whereas the high-level road linking the two bridges was only 65 percent finished. The road construction had been delayed because of objections from residents.

The accident triggered doubts as to whether the construction company was in a rush to meet the scheduled opening of the bridge, set for April 2014, which might allow for lapses.

The affected area is part of a mega-bridge project that encompasses large areas across Busan and other adjacent areas in South Gyeongsang.

The Bukhang Bridge construction started in April 2007, and the 3.3-kilometer (2 mile) multilane road connects Gamman-dong, Nam District, and Cheonghak-dong, Yeongdo District.

The 52-kilometer Busan Coastal Beltway, which connects seven sea bridges - Gwangan Bridge, Bukhang Bridge, Namhang Bridge, Eulsukdo Bridge, Sinho Bridge, Gadeok Bridge and Geoga Bridge - is scheduled for completion in April 2014.

The Busan Coastal Beltway, commonly known as the “Bridge of Busan,” is a road that spans the entire Busan coast. It is expected to be the primary logistics and tourist hub in the region.

BY PARK EUN-JEE, WEE SUNG-WOOK [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]

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