Resort gym not built in a sound way, police claim

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Resort gym not built in a sound way, police claim

Authorities investigating a roof collapse at a resort gymnasium last week in Gyeongju, which left 10 people dead, reported yesterday that based on its architectural blueprint, the gym had not been constructed in a sound way.

According to the police, which held a press briefing yesterday to announce their interim investigation results, some of the anchor bolts used to attach the pillars of the building to the ground were missing for reasons unknown. Those findings were part of a joint on-site inspection conducted by the National Forensic Service and structural engineers.

“If some of the anchor bolts used to attach the pillars to the ground were missing, it could have caused serious problems, including the collapse of the entire building,” said Kang Suk-bong, an architecture professor at Ulsan University.

The police reported that some of the pillars were found to only be fastened using two bolts, which were used to affix them to the ground, instead of the four that should have been used as directed by the blueprint.

The briefing by the police yesterday added to the speculation that one of the causes that led to the fatal collapse a week ago was that the building failed to meet safety regulations because of its faulty construction. It was initially suspected that the heavy weight of the snow that covered the roof at the time of the accident was the primary cause of the collapse.

The police, however, said yesterday the exact cause of the collapse has yet to be determined and a further investigation was under way.

At 9:06 p.m. on Feb. 17 the roof of a gymnasium at Mauna Ocean Resort in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang, caved in, killing 10 people and injuring more than 100 students who were attending a welcome ceremony for incoming first-year students at Busan University of Foreign Studies.

The fact that it cost just 140 million won ($130,340) to build a 1,205-square-meter (12,970-square-feet) building in 2009 further sparked suspicion that the builder used substandard materials to save on construction costs. The collapsed gym was a pre-engineered building that used roof panels and rigid frames along with light gauge metal wall cladding.

When asked by the JoongAng Ilbo to estimate the costs for constructing a building similar to the collapsed gymnasium, a builder in Ulsan reported it would be approximately 282 million won - twice what the resort paid a constructor five years ago.

The police are questioning resort officials as to whether they were aware of flaws in the design of the building and if they took action to repair any damages. If it is determined that they were aware of missing or faulty parts, they could be charged for negligence of duty.

BY HONG GWEON-SAM [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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