Sidewalk collapse puts two people in hospital

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Sidewalk collapse puts two people in hospital

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A man and a woman fell 3 meters (10 feet) to the ground below on Friday near Yongsan Station in central Seoul after the sidewalk under them collapsed. Captured from video footage provided by Yongsan Fire Station

An incident on Friday in which a young couple fell through the sidewalk in central Seoul has reignited controversy over a series of underground cavities that have formed over the past year around the capital city.

According to Yongsan Fire Station, which analyzed video footage from the scene, the couple disembarked from a bus near Yongsan Station and stepped onto the sidewalk when the surface beneath them suddenly collapsed, causing them to plummet 3 meters (10 feet) below ground.

The victims, a 28-year-old man surnamed Kim and his 24-year-old girlfriend surnamed Jeong, were immediately taken to Soonchunhyang University Hospital, where they are still undergoing treatment.

The hospital said neither was critically injured.

City authorities investigating the accident suspect ongoing construction for an apartment complex next to the bus stop caused the cavity to form, citing experts who inspected the scene.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government also found that Daewoo Engineering and Construction, charged with building the complex, had discovered earlier this month that water was coming through a retaining wall near the scene, though neglected to address it.

“We believe underground water from the construction site spilled through the retaining wall and washed away the earth behind it,” said Lee Taek-geun, who heads the city government’s Road Management Division. “If it turns out that the constructor neglected its duties and caused the accident, we will penalize them accordingly, possibly suspending construction.”

Daewoo E&C and the Yongsan District Office have since filled the cavity, filling it with soil and topping it with concrete paver blocks. Access to the area is restricted.

Over the past year, authorities have come across a number of underground cavities and potholes in the southeastern part of the capital city.

A cavity under the road next to the Seokchon Underpass was unearthed last year, which led to the subsequent discovery of several empty pockets in the ground below the area, including one cavity that was 80 meters long.

An investigation later discovered that construction on Subway Line No. 9 was to blame. Construction on Lotte World Mall, located less than a kilometer (0.62 mile) from the underpass, was also suspected to be responsible for reduced water levels in Seokchon Lake, and a likely contributor to nearby potholes.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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