As a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan on Feb. 6, the Weiguan Jinlong (Golden Dragon) apartment complex in Taiwan collapsed, killing most of the 34 people confirmed dead in quake, according to latest reports.
The 17-story structure was the only high-rise building to have completely given way in the city following the quake and the reason, latest findings suggest, could be the use of cheap construction material.
Cooking oil cans in reinforced pillar of building in Yongkang District exposed after earthquake— Linde136 (@Linde136) February 7, 2016
Photo: Taipei Times pic.twitter.com/Xw3Fw9750L
Although an official investigation has been launched into the construction of the apartment complex, reporters from Reuters and the BBC saw evidence that tin cans were apparently used as shoddy filler material.
While some witnesses claim they saw cooking-oil tins packed inside some concrete beams of the building, others noticed cans marked Alesco, a Japanese brand of paint.
The apartment complex houses around 260 people, according to census records, but more than 300 were reportedly inside at the time of the collapse.
Taiwan is at a junction of two tectonic plates and regularly hit by tremors. Although most structures in the country are made to withstand earthquakes, buildings fall nevertheless, causing more casualties.
For instance, in 1999, a major earthquake of 7.6 magnitude hit Taiwan killing nearly 2,400 people. In Taipei City, engineers and architects examining the toppled Tunghsing Building found walls and pillars of high-rises stuffed with plastic bottles, metal buckets and bundles of newspapers instead of bricks.
In the following year, residents of the complex sought compensation of NT$2.5 billion from the Hung Kuo Group construction whose poor structural design, they believed, was the primary cause of most deaths and injuries.
The Tunghsing and now the Weiguan Jinlong disasters are strong indicators of how the practice of cutting corners while building high-rise structures in Taiwan could be a more extensive problem than previously thought.