Friday, April 30, 2004

more disaster strikes in Singapore

i know more ppl stop by here than by the LJ, so i thought i'd post this up here, in full because we all know how stupid the ST Online archives are.

i don't know what is going on back home -whether this happens all the time and the newspaper fails to cover it, until something like the highway collapse draws attention to it; or it should be something we are seriously going to be worrying about for a while. on the surface it seems that there is little to no connection between the two cases. however, both cases appear to have resulted from supports giving way etc etc - the rest of the mechanism of destruction really doesn't matter. if it isn't sabotage (of what? the Circle Line? who would care enough? this isn't The Fountainhead) or terrorism (i find that hard to swallow but i'm also trying to avoid being paranoid), then it could well turn out to be industry-wide shoddiness in quality of materials -and- work. that's the scary part.

APRIL 30, 2004
Two die in worksite collapse


29 injured as rods for Fusionpolis foundation crashes onto 40 workers
Dead: A Bangladeshi worker and Singaporean Lee Chee Yong
Ayer Rajah industrial accident unrelated to MRT works nearby

By Sharon Loh

THOUSANDS of steel rods crashed down on some 40 workers at an Ayer Rajah construction site yesterday, killing two and injuring 29.

The men were fixing steel supports for the foundation of a six-storey basement for Fusionpolis, a JTC Corporation high-tech township, when part of the framework collapsed.

They were working on a steel latticework 5m from the floor of Singapore's deepest construction site, going down 30m.

By the time Singapore Civil Defence Force officers arrived, a 31-year-old Bangladeshi was dead, and two workers were pinned beneath a flattened area 50m by 50m.

Together with construction workers, rescue personnel picked apart the 12m-long rods to free the duo, one of whom was dead. The other was speared by a rod in his right thigh.

At a midnight briefing, the SCDF said that all 420 workers on the site had been accounted for. But it would work through the night to clear the rods and expected it to be done by 6 this morning.

Work had been going on round-the-clock and hundreds of workers are believed to be on the site in the day, and about 200 at night.

The accident is the second at a construction site in 10 days and is eerily reminiscent of last Tuesday's MRT tunnel collapse in Nicoll Highway, with one worker saying he heard a breaking sound before the steel framework folded like a pack of cards at 1.30pm.

Bangladeshi Mohammad Alilal Miah, 27, was tightening rivets when he heard it.

'I looked up but there was no time,' he told The Straits Times in halting English.

He bruised his leg and was later discharged from Alexandra Hospital.

The authorities hastened to assure Singaporeans that the accident was unrelated to and unlike the Nicoll Highway collapse.

In the earlier disaster, soil movement caused by the collapse of a temporary supporting wall triggered a massive cave-in of the area, killing four men. Water poured into the massive ravine, causing further instability in the soil.

But yesterday's accident had nothing to do with the works for the new rail line, although an underground MRT station is being built next to the Ayer Rajah site by the same company, said the Land Transport Authority.

The Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower, Mr Hawazi Daipi, also stressed the localised nature of the crash, telling reporters at the site: 'This is an isolated industrial site and unrelated to the Circle Line.'

It could happen anywhere, he added and pointed out that fatal industrial accidents have halved since 1997 - from 72 deaths to just 31 last year.

Earlier, Mr S. Iswaran, MP for West Coast GRC, said at the site: 'The immediate response among some is to draw parallels with the Nicoll Highway incident and see if there is some broader problem because of the Circle Line.

'But it is very clear from a lay person surveying the site that it is an industrial accident because certain steel bars have collapsed. It is not because of any tunnelling works or soil movement.'

Of the 28 workers ferried between 2.30pm and 3.30pm to the Singapore General, National University and Alexandra hospitals, 21 were later discharged. Most had injuries to their limbs or faces.

But two died at the site. One was a Bangladeshi who received his work permit last month.He was crushed to death by falling steel.

His co-worker, Malaysian Li Gui Ming, 48, saw it happen. 'I couldn't bear to look at him; he had about 4 layers of steel rods on him,' said Mr Li, who injured his knee. 'He was still conscious and kept opening and shutting his eyes.'

The other man who died was Singaporean Lee Chee Yong, 51, a supervisor with Kingston Construction. He was pulled out at 7.30pm.

The Building and Construction Authority said workers were fixing steel bars for a 5m-thick foundation for the basement. The top layer of steel bars fell when their supporting structures gave way.

All work has ceased, said the project's builder, Greatearth-United Engineers Joint Venture.

Fusionpolis is a two-tower information-communications hub that is part of the $15-billion, 200-ha One North hub in Buona Vista. Its first phase was to be completed in the third quarter of next year, and this is its first fatal accident.

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