Taiwan to seize assets of collapsed building developer

taiwan earthquake
COLLAPSED. Rescuers use heavy equipment to knockdown parts of a collapsed 17-storey apartment building, on the fourth day of searching for survivors in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, February 9, 2016. File photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA
Pictures of the ruins show tin cans and foam were used as fillers in the concrete, exacerbating public anger over the latest safety scandal to hit the island

NEW TAIPEI CITY, Taiwan (Feb. 12, 2016) — Almost a million dollars in assets belonging to the developer and 3 associates of a building in Taiwan felled by an earthquake will be seized, a court ruled Friday, February 12 with more than 90 residents confirmed dead in the disaster.

Rescuers are still digging through the rubble of the toppled Wei-kuan apartment complex in the southern city of Tainan which collapsed during the quake on Saturday, February 6 – 30 residents remain missing and the death toll has climbed to 94.

Prosecutors questioning the developer and two others connected with the building have said there were “flaws” in the residential complex, including a lack of steel reinforcement girders.

Pictures of the ruins also showed tin cans and foam were used as fillers in the concrete, exacerbating public anger over the latest safety scandal to hit the island.

Tainan’s district court Friday gave the city government the go-ahead to freeze up to Tw$30 million ($908,623) in assets belonging to the building’s developer Lin Ming-hui and 3 associates, according to a government statement.

“The Tainan district court handled it quickly, and granted… provisional seizure up to Tw$30 million of the assets of the related people,” the statement said.

It added the move was to prevent the developer and associates from “disposing assets”.

Lin and two of the men have been detained on charges of professional negligence resulting in death.

The 4th to have assets seized was a contractor used during the construction of the Wei-kuan building, the only high-rise to crumble completely in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake. He has not been detained.

The Tw$30 million is a preliminary figure to cover the property damages of victims who have already made claims, the Tainan government statement said.

The government has also identified land owned by Lin – totaling at least 30 plots in Tainan – and has directed local authorities to prevent any sale of those assets.

Distraught relatives of residents told Agence France-Presse they had complained over cracks in the walls of the building.

Engineers helping at the rescue site added that some walls many have been knocked down on the ground floor, which housed part of a multi-story electronics store.

The Wei-kuan building had 96 apartments and was completed in 1994, before a new building code was brought in following a devastating earthquake that left 2,400 people dead in 1999.

The building collapse has struck a nerve with the public, increasingly embittered by a string of disasters, from food safety scandals to a water park explosion that left 15 dead.

rappler_64  by Agence France-Presse | Rappler.com