Posted by: rbbadger | July 2, 2009

China’s weapons of mass construction

One of the things which is endangered in urban China, at least in Beijing, are the old neighbourhoods.  Many of them were demolished to make way for the Olympic Games.  Others of them were demolished for China’s ongoing urban development.  All throughout Beijing, there are a number of apartment buildings going up with no end in sight it seems. 

In Shanghai, China’s most populous city, apartment blocks have likewise been erected at breakneck speed.  However, one of them collapsed intact.  It just pulled off its foundation somehow.  You can see the photos here.  Links to this story were obtained from The Marmot’s Hole blog. 

Back during Korea’s own development, apartment towers, department stores, and much else were constructed at breakneck speed.  One of the worst disasters in the nation’s history involved the Sampoong Department Store (三豊百貨店) collapse in 1995.  The building had a poor foundation, was laid on unstable ground and poor construction was extensively used.  Additionally, some city officials were bribed to look the other way.  Some of the crucial support columns were cut to provide room for fire shields for the escalators.  The concrete used was substandard and when workers moved the air conditioning equipment, they used rollers and dragged the equipment across the roof, weakening it further.  Despite the massive cracks appearing, store management did not close the store.  Rather, they kept it open.  The only thing they did was to move some merchandise in areas where huge cracks were appearing to other parts of the store.  Needless to say, the executives did leave the building as a precaution.  They let their employees stay behind.  In the end, the entire store collapsed.  It was the single biggest peacetime disaster in Korean history.  In all, 502 people were killed and 937 were injured.

The leadership of the Sampoong Group were put on trial.  The father and son who ran the company were found guilty of criminal negligence.  They were sentenced to several years of imprisonment and stripped of all of their possessions and assets to cover some of the costs.  Investigations into officials of the Seoul Metropolitan Government found widespread corruption.  Not a few buildings had to be structurally reinforced if not demolished.

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  1. Wow.


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