In Su’ao Township at Yilan County, there is a bridge that is considered to be the only one of its construction type in all of Taiwan. This steel single arch bridge connects Su’ao to the fishing harbor of Nanfang’ao, and it was built in the 1990s as a replacement for the original connecting bridge since its deck was high enough to allow fishing vessels to pass under it. Only last year, two decades since the Nanfang’ao Bridge was opened to traffic, it was given routine reinforcement work. But none of that maintenance helped the bridge when it collapsed this Tuesday.
CBS News reports that the Nanfang’ao arch bridge suddenly collapsed at about 9:30 in the morning (Taiwan time) of October 1, causing damage to fishing vessels below and multiple injuries. The collapse was apparently triggered when an oil tanker truck made to cross the bridge. When the deck started falling apart, the tanker slipped backwards into the broken gap and fell onto three fishing boats passing underneath at the time, exploding as it crashed. The Taiwan National Fire Agency reported 20 people injured, and six were apparently walking on the bridge itself. Ten of these were sent to nearby hospitals.
In a follow-up report by CNN Philippines, it was determined that five of the injuries in the Nanfang’ao Bridge collapse were Filipinos. A statement from Chairman Angelito Banayo of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office identified these injuries as Julio S. Gimawa, Jason N. Villaruel, Allan H. Alcansano, John Vicente Royo and June B. Flores, all fishermen working aboard vessels operating from Yilan County. Alcansano, Gimawa and Villaruel were taken to Poai Hospital for treatment while Flores and Royo went to Rong Min Hospital. The statement notes that all five were given treatment for non-serious injuries and discharged soon after.
Already there is speculation as to what could cause the steel arch structure of Nanfang’ao Bridge to fall apart as it did. Two culprits are being considered, both the work of nature. Only the day before, Yilan County was buffeted by Typhoon Mitag. Then, at 1:54 AM (Taiwan time) of Tuesday there was a recorded earthquake in Yilan measuring 3.8 magnitude and intensity 4. Taiwanese officials have made no statement yet on the possibility that either or both of these events contributed to the disaster at Nanfang’ao Bridge, which is considered a tourist attraction. Search and rescue operations are ongoing.
Image from Los Angeles Times