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‘Nat`l Defense Bridge’ collapses on Korean War anniversary

‘Nat`l Defense Bridge’ collapses on Korean War anniversary

Posted June. 27, 2011 08:31,   


A signboard saying “Danger. Be careful not to fall” and a yellow safety fence Sunday afternoon blocked the road ahead before the entrance to the Hoguk Bridge, nicknamed the "National Defense Bridge, in Yakmok, Chilgok County, North Gyeongsang Province.

The bridge in sight was destroyed as if it had been bombarded. Of the bridge`s nine piers, the second pier was gone. The arched steel structure was left bended on Pier No. 1.

More than half of the piers were submerged in water beyond recognition. The bridge in front was damaged beyond recognition

A 41-year-old woman who visited the site with her son said, “I feel so sorry to see the bridge collapse in such a miserable way. My son kept asking me why the bridge collapsed, but I didn`t know how to answer.”

○ Bridge collapses on Korean War anniversary

The second pier of the Hoguk Bridge collapsed around 4:10 a.m. Saturday. According to the Busan Regional Construction and Management Administration, the bridge collapsed because the rising level of the Nakdong River caused by seasonal rain sped up water flow. The 46-meter bridge lost some 60 meters, with no reported human casualties.

Built as a steel-framed reinforced concrete bridge in 1905, when Japan ruled Korea as a colony, the bridge was the last defense line on the Nakdong River in the Korean War.

U.N. troops blew up part of the bridge on Aug. 3, 1950, to deter North Korean troops from advancing further to the south. The destroyed section was re-linked with woods after the truce, and the bridge was used by pedestrians. It was restored in 1993 as a pedestrian-only bridge.

Since then, the bride has been called the “National Defense Bridge” due to its role in the Korean War. In 2008, the Cultural Heritage Administration of (South) Korea registered the bridge as a cultural asset.

The bridge is loved by residents of Chilgok as a symbol of national defense. Due to lack of recreational facilities around, people go on walks and jog on the bridge.

Upon hearing the news of the bridge’s collapse, dozens of residents gathered at the site, expressing regret over the incident. A 43-year-old woman who ran a restaurant near the bridge for 10 years said, “The whole town is uneasy about the news that the bridge happened to collapse on the anniversary of the Korean War.”

○ Locals blame dredging

Chilgok residents blamed the collapse not on seasonal rain but on dredging work carried out as part of the Lee Myung-bak administration’s four-river restoration project. They claimed that the dredging weakened the base of the bridge and that heightened water pressure had a direct influence on the collapse.

On the day of the collapse, the area had just 63.2 millimeters of rain, a little more than usual. Until 6 a.m. of the morning of the collapse, rain amounted to just seven millimeters.

“The bridge had endured typhoons and monsoons and its collapse was caused by excessive dredging on one side,” said Gwak Gyeong-ho, chairman of the Chilgok County Council.

The regional branch of the environmental group Green Korea United also made the same argument in a statement issued Sunday.

Daewoo Engineering and Construction, the contractor of the dredging project, began efforts to determine the cause of the collapse, with its chief executive rushing to the site.

“The area around the collapse was not any part of the dredged area,” a company source said. “We`ll have to wait until the results of an analysis of the cause is out to determine whether the dredging work had a direct impact on the collapse.”

The Busan Regional Construction and Management Administration said, “It`s difficult to determine the cause of the collapse because of the high water level around the bridge,” adding, “We plan to join the investigation to be conducted by Chilgok County and North Gyeongsang Province."

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