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Cablegate: Kaohsiung Kmrt Subway Construction Site Collapses

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A) TAIPEI 4419, B) TAIPEI 4353

1. SUMMARY. Beset by scandals involving foreign labor and
shady financing, Kaohsiung's Mass Rapid Transit (KMRT)
subway construction came to another standstill on December
5, this time due to a major cave- in at one of the
construction sites. As with three previous cave-ins, this
incident was caused by tunnelers hitting underground water.
According to KMRT authorities this is the most serious
incident to date. While workers have stopped the flow of
water, a major section of the roadway above the site remains
closed. An adjacent park and several buildings have also
sustained damage. No one was injured in the incident. End

2. The roadway above the construction site of the KMRT
Orange Line Station 07 collapsed on 5 December, despite
twenty hours of frantic efforts by construction workers to
stem the flow of underground water. At 4 p.m. on December
4, while digging a retention pond, workers hit an
underground stream. The water ruptured a 100-meter long
section of the tunnel wall. Workers immediately began
attempts to stem the flow. However, leakage continued and
each time that workers thought the flow had been stopped, a
new cave in occurred. By early afternoon on the fifth, a
ten-meter deep 50 by 30-meter pit had developed, consuming
three lanes of Chung Cheng Road and a major portion of the
adjacent park. By the time the situation had been
stabilized, more than 7,000 cubic meters of soil and gravel
had poured into the hole.

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3. In addition to disrupting road traffic, city officials
have had to halt rail traffic in the area. The rail line is
adjacent to the park and about 50 meters away from the cave-
in site. Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corportation (KRTC)
officials estimate that it will take seven to ten days to
complete temporary repairs and reopen Chung Cheng Road,
which is a key traffic artery in Kaohsiung City. The rail
service was interrupted as a safety precaution and will be
resumed once safety officials certify that the ground under
the railway is stable.

4. The cost to make final repairs to the site is
estimated at NTD 500 million, roughly USD 15 million. KRTC
officials said that no human error was involved as they had
done a geotechnical survey of the area and determined that
underground water would not pose a problem. However, the
previous cave-ins also resulted from hitting underground
water after geotechnical surveys had indicated that
construction would not be adversely affected by underground
water. Two of the previous cave-ins were in the area of Red
Line Station 01, close to Kaohsiung Harbor and the Love
River. The third was near Orange Line Station 08, also on
Chung Cheng Road, about one kilometer from the site of the
present incident.

5. The Kaohsiung City Council, which ordered a temporary
halt to construction after the previous incidents, is
currently meeting to discuss how to proceed in this case.
There is growing concern that the subway will be unable to
meet its scheduled 2007 completion date. Presently, all
work along Chung Cheng Road has ceased so that crews can be
diverted to make emergency repairs.

6. Comment. While KRTC officials assert that all necessary
geotechnical surveys were done, they seem oblivious to the
fact that the surveys have been consistently wrong. There
are several underground streams that wind through the
construction area, posing a substantial risk to motorists
and pedestrians using the temporary roadways above the
construction sites. While no one was injured in the present
case, the situation would have been catastrophic had the
incident occurred at rush hour rather than late on a Sunday
evening. End Comment.



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