Bridge collapses in Yilan County, 12 injured, 5 missing

A bridge spanning a harbor in Yilan County collapsed this morning, October 1, crushing fishing boats moored below it, and leaving crew members trapped or injured.

At around 9:30am, a fuel tanker was passing over the 140 meter long Nanfang’ao Bridge when the bridge suddenly collapsed. Video footage of the incident shows the tanker passing the center of the bridge when a suspension cable suddenly snaps and the deck collapses.

The bridge collapsed onto three fishing boats moored below, leaving crew members injured or trapped.

Early reports stated that more than 20 people were injured in the incident, but by early afternoon it was clarified that at least 12 people were injured, including 11 fishing boat crew, and the tanker driver. Most of the injured fishing crew are of Indonesian and Philippine nationality.

The tanker driver, Mr Zhang, 60, was conscious when rescued. Zhang suffered multiple fractures, spinal, and internal injuries, and is currently in the intensive care unit after emergency surgery at the Luodong Bo’ai Hospital. Doctors say he is as yet unable to speak.

The bridge collapse follows Typhoon Mitag, which swept through the area yesterday, subjecting the bridge to level 11 Beaufort Scale winds, while a small earthquake in the early hours of this morning was felt as a level four in Yilan County. However, whether or not these factors had contributed to the bridge collapse is yet to be determined.

Fishing boats trapped under the collapsed bridge. Picture: Nan’ao Township Office.

The National Army and Coast Guard dispatched personnel for search and rescue operations including Marine Corps divers. Liberty Times reported that divers had received a response after knocking on the hull of a sunken vessel, but were not yet able to enter the boat because of the strong smell of leaking gas.

Coast Guard and army personnel in search and rescue operations. Picture: Ministry of Defense.

According to the Su’ao District Fisheries Association, at least 800 fishing boats, many of which had been sheltering in the harbor during yesterday’s typhoon, are now trapped in the harbor. While search and rescue operations are the first priority, the next priority will be clearing the passage. The estimated economic output of the port is NT$2.1 billion annually.

Sources: China Times, Apple Daily United Daily News.

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