Seoul kindergarten is collapsing
The four-story Sangdo Public Kindergarten, located in the southern district of Dongjak, leaned at about 10 degrees after the wall designed to prevent subsidence caved in for unknown reasons late Thursday night, local firefighters and police said.
The building was empty at the time of the incident.
Rescue teams and investigators were dispatched to the site as soon as the tilting was reported at 11:22 p.m. As of early Friday, 148 people were dispatched to the scene, with 34 vehicles, including fire engines.
The Dongjak ward office set up a temporary shelter for nearby apartment residents who evacuated.
The accident came only a week after a large sinkhole opened near an apartment complex in Seoul's southern neighborhood of Gasan-dong, adding to growing worries about ground failures near construction sites.
Seoul Education Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon paid a visit to the site and met the kindergarten officials to discuss the situation.
An official from the kindergarten told Cho they repeatedly complained to the construction company about cracks developing in floors and it did nothing about it.
“The cracks were about 30-40 millimeters [1.1 to 1.5 inches] in size,” the official said. “The supervisor kept on saying it was O.K.”
A safety inspection had already been underway for Sangdo Kindergarten, according to its officials. No serious flaws were found in June and July measurements, but in August, the inspectors found some potential risks.
A day before the collapse, the kindergarten principal, officials from the ward office and construction company held a meeting about the issue. The builder promised to come up with measures to ensure safety.
Cho took a swipe at lax regulations that allow construction near schools and called for tougher laws to prioritize people’s safety.
“It makes no sense that we’re letting construction go ahead right next to a preschool,” he said.
Police said the retaining wall — 20 meters (65 feet) high and 50 meters wide — was incomplete and about 80 percent of the structure has been destroyed.
The authorities believe part of the ground, on which the kindergarten stands, suddenly subsided and crumbled into the construction site, causing the tilting.
Police said they will continue efforts to find out the exact cause of the collapse.
Experts who made preliminary examinations of the scene said the building is irreparable and should be torn down. They were cautious about the cause of the accident, although many of them said recent downpours may have affected the area.