It’s not how they may have envisaged the 20th Century ending, but the people of Taiwan are now struggling to come to terms with what is thought to be the biggest earthquake to hit the island in more than a hundred years. More than 300 people are known to have been injured in the earthquake which struck in the early hours of the morning whilst most people were still asleep.
The timing of the earthquake meant that more people were trapped in their homes than perhaps would have been had the earthquake occurred later on in the day when more people were out on the streets or at work. The rescue effort has now been mobilised with desperate attempts being made to save as many of Taiwan’s 22 million resident as possible. The scale of the devastation is almost unprecedented with entire buildings being destroyed and fire-fighters having to battle hard to work out how best to get inside and look for survivors.
The quake measured 7.6 on the Richter scale and the epicentre is believed to have been west of Nantou which has long been known to be a seismically-active area. Dozens of earthquakes occur in the region every year but most avoid such devastation as has been seen with this one because they take place far offland in the Pacific Ocean. This time Taiwan was not so lucky and it is thought to the worst ‘quake since the devastating one of 1935 which killed over 3000 people. Death tolls are not as high for this one, but still around 1000 are thought to have perished, with many more left injured and homeless as a result of seismic shudder. Warnings of Tsunami’s were also issued but, thankfully, nothing came to fruition to add to the destruction.
Amongst the devastation, there are stories of hope. A young girl, frightened but apparently uninjured, helped from the rubble of a ruined building. A young boy being rescued from a 12 story hotel in Tapai. Such stories provide temporary condolence but do not erase the sheer scale of the tragedy which has unfolded here and the unease with which the Taiwanese will now be living with in case such a powerful earthquake should strike again. Rebuilding the infrastructure will begin immediately; rebuilding the psychological scars of what has happened may take a considerably longer period of time.
We’re such a television-obsessed culture now that, if we can’t find the remote we go from placid to violent in around five seconds. So spare a thought for Russia who, after a three-day black out, is only just beginning to receive transmissions once again. A fire at the Ostaniko tower was the source of the trouble and three days later the two main Russian channels began to do a limited joint transmission service which included soap operas and news programmes. T.V addicts may have longer to wait before many of their favourite shows are back on the airwaves, perhaps as long as a month and a half.
A much greater tragedy was unveiled as televisions across Russia staggered back into life; the deaths which were the result of the transmission tower fire. Three people, lift operator Svetlana Loseva, Aleksandr Shepitsyn, a plumber and Vladimir Arsyukov, had been attempting to flee the burning tower in the lift when the carriage plunged and killed them. However, this is not the full horror of what actually went on. Russian T.V gave a surprisingly stark description of what happened. Before the car of the lift actually plunged down, it became suspended some 250 metres above the ground. Here, because of the fire, it became red hot and, in the pitch blackness, began to fill with smoke. The harrowing last words of one of the victims are said to have been: “We have one breathing apparatus between the three of us. We are suffocating”
Soon after this last message was sent the cables of the lift snapped and the carriage plunged towards earth, smashing through the concrete floor and ending up some seven feet beneath the basement. Regulations apparently state that the lift should have been shut down as soon as the fire broke out but, tragically this did not happen. The fire itself was also caused by a catastrophic failure to adhere to regulations. Out of the 38 regulations in place to prevent such a tragedy as this happening, only 16 were adhered to. Russia will be sombre after learning of these deaths so tragic. People might be a bit miffed that they can’t get their favourite T.V show, but such petty annoyances will be replaced by a national grief at the horrific nature of these three people’s deaths. Investigations are now likely into why so many regulations were not adhered to.
A lift which had broken down a staggering 40 times in three years has now been the cause of one man’s tragic death; the 61 year old from Stafford plunged down the lift shaft during a rescue attempt. The hotel chain has been fined £400,000 for not acting on over 30 recommendations to repair the lift. The ignoring of these recommendations has now led to one man’s death.
The company had said that the £20,000 needed to update the antiquated lift had not been readily available at the time and the defence council stated that: “The group did intend to fully modernise the lift but it did not do so in time”. What makes Mr. Fareham’s death all the more upsetting is that it could have been avoided. Health and Safety experts have confirmed that, if a steel apron had been fitted underneath the cage of the lift, as is standard with more modern lifts, then this would have caught the victim and would have more than likely saved his life and prevented him from serious injury.
The prior quoted Defence QC has said that the death is not the result of “turning a blind eye” or deliberate negligence on the part of the owners. He has claimed that the company was not made fully aware of the dangers the lift posed and has also pointed out that if Mr. Fareham had stayed within the lift he would almost certainly have been rescued by one of the safety engineers who were working to fix the problem. Mr Fareham had said that he needed fresh-air and was trying to lower himself from the lift to the second floor when the accident occurred. However, the group did plead guilty to the charges brought against it; those charges being a failure to adequately train staff and another one based around providing sufficient risk assessment. Such a guilty plea saved the group from paying two separate £300,000 fines but the £400,000 fine is still a stark warning to anybody else who may attempt to avoid making vital safety improvements to their lifts.
The lift has now been repaired and made fully safe and the hotel itself has been sold on to another company; this will be of little consolation, however, to those who are mourning the loss of Mr. Fareham, who was due to give a speech at a conference the day after he fell to his death.
India has been left outraged and appalled as an eight year old girl has been crushed to death by an escalator in the major airport of the country’s capital city.
Jyotsna Jethani perished after an escalator in the arrivals lounge bizarrely ripped open after a passengers travel bag was caught up in it. The horror of the incident was summed up by the Indian Times which said: If escalators can kill in the capital of the country and that too at the airport, which is a gateway to India, things are quite bad”. An immediate and prompt investigation has been called for the Civil Aviation Minister, with a two-member enquiry committee ordered to report back its findings on what went wrong within 24 hours. Such a speedy deadline only serves to re-emphasise the nationwide outrage which has greeted this tragedy.
The girl’s parents, obviously devastated by the horrific way they have lost their child, refused offers of compensation, saying that had the money been 50 times as much, it still would not give them back their child. The family had arrived for a regularly scheduled flight on Monday morning, but there trip soon turned into something akin to a horror movie when there was a minor stampede on an escalator when a passenger’s bag became stuck. In the mêlée which ensued, the young girl became trapped in what has been described as the “gaping” hole which had opened up at the bottom of the escalator. “She was flailing her legs and screaming, but I could do nothing,” the girl’s mother has tragically recalled. She went on to reminisce about how nobody would help them, stop the escalator or help to pull her out. After the panic had settled two parents were left without a daughter and India itself was left with a national tragedy.
Consumers in a shopping centre were left shocked after a man tragically fell to his death off an escalator. The Cornerhouse Complex in Nottingham was left stunned when Christopher Harris fell two floors from the escalator on a Thursday. He did not die instantly from the fall but, after being taken to the Queens Medical Centre he succumbed to the seriousness of his injuries.
Obviously, the first concern of the Health and Safety inspectorate was to determine what, if anything, might have caused the fall. An examination of the escalator determined that it was safe and that no faults had occurred to cause Mr. Harris’ death. Thus, it was an investigation which really raised more questions than it did actually answer, but the shopping centre itself will be relieved that they are not to blame for the tragedy which took place.
A spokesperson for the shopping complex has said that: “The Cornerhouse are working with the police and relevant authorities to fully investigate the incident and our deepest sympathy goes to all friends and family”. The spokesperson went on to reiterate that “The escalators are serviced and maintained to correct standards and were in fact inspected and cleared after the incident by a registered escalator engineer”. This would seem to be backed up by the coroner who has confirmed that the death is not considered suspicious and will thus not investigated as such. Thus attention turns from trying to find someone to blame, as there is nobody to blame, to finding how such an accident took place and how Mr. Harris sadly lost his life.
We all use escalators every day and Mr. Harris was no different, stepping onto one at quarter-past four on a regular Thursday as he shopped in the Cornerhouse. He could not have known the tragedy that was about to happen and his family and friends must be devastated at the sudden loss of Mr. Harris in such peculiar circumstances. Hopefully the Nottinghamshire Police’s appeal for witnesses will be heeded and someone will come forward who will be able to shed some light on what actually happened. Whilst it has been made clear that nobody is at fault, nor that the death is suspicious, his family, friends, and the Cornerstone shopping complex as well will want the closure of knowing how such a horrific accident could take place and what measures are needed to stop it happening again.