Preemptive actions needed
The Seohae Grand Bridge connecting southwestern industrial cities with the capital will remain closed until Christmas Eve to fix the cables that were presumably damaged by a fire last week. The Korea Expressway Corporation will be in charge of the repair work at a cost of 2.3 billion won, but no one can fully reimburse the motorists who now have detours of up to two hours because of the shutdown of the six-lane bridge, which is used by an average 95,600 cars every day.
The police and National Forensic Service are investigating the exact cause of the fire, which led to the death of one firefighter and injured two others. We need to know whether the cable snapped because of a natural disaster or poor construction and maintenance.
The Korea Expressway Corporation believes the fire was caused by lightning based on witness testimonies. But that alone does not explain why the lightening protection system atop the central tower did not work, or how steel cables could’ve been so easily damaged by a spark. There has been only one recorded case of lightning destroying a cable-stayed bridge, which occurred in Greece in 2005.
Investigators must look into the possibility of poor construction.
This same bridge lead to the deaths of 16 people when part of it collapsed during construction in 1996. In 1999, another four died in an bridge accident. The completion of the construction was delayed from 1996 to 1998, and then later to 2000, due to frequent changes in safety features and designs. The bridge is a typical cable-stayed structure comprised of a primary bridge deck and cables running directly to the supporting towers. The durability of cables is essential and the safety of the entire bridge hinges on the suspensions. The Haengju and Paldang Bridges that collapsed in the 1990s were also both cable-stayed structures with concrete decks.
Since the tragic Seongsu Bridge collapse in Seoul in 1994, Korea has repeatedly pledged safety in infrastructure and building construction. But accidents keep happening. The government must conduct a comprehensive safety check on large bridges across the country. Symptoms do show before accidents take place. The Land, Infrastructure, and Transport Ministry and Korea Express Corporation should not think their work is done after they fix the cables. They must tour around the country to take preemptive actions to prevent accidents. JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 8, Page 34