PRECAUTION: The county said the move was taken on behalf of victims to prevent those responsible for the buildings’ collapse from transferring or hiding their assets
By Jason Pan / Staff reporter, with CNA
The Hualien County Government has filed for provisional seizure of assets belonging to developers, building contractors and several business proprietors in connection with the buildings that were damaged or toppled by the magnitude 6.0 earthquake on Tuesday last week.
The move was made on behalf of people affected by the collapsed or partially collapsed buildings in the city, Hualien County Commissioner Fu Kun-chi said, adding that county officials had filed the motions with the Hualien District Court.
Aside from the developers and contractors of the Yun Men Tsui Ti （雲門翠堤） commercial and residential building and two apartment buildings on Hualien City’s Guosheng 6th Street, the provisional seizure orders would include the proprietors of two businesses in the Yun Men Tsui Ti building — the Beauty Inn （漂亮生活旅店） on the first and third floors, and A-Kuan Hotpot （阿官火鍋） on the first floor — along with the architects who were involved in the original construction and the subsequent renovation of these two businesses, Fu said at a news conference.
“We want to prevent these people from transferring or hiding their assets, so that if found guilty of negligence or violating the law, they can be held legally responsible and the rights of victims can be protected,” he said.
Fu also led county officials in bowing and thanking everyone who had provided assistance and financial aid.
A judicial probe is under way, with Hualien prosecutors gathering construction documents and other evidence to determine if negligence, illegal renovations or building code violations were responsible for the buildings’ collapse, which resulted in 17 deaths and scores of people injured.
Investigators have obtained the blueprint and interior layout plans for the Yun Men Tsui Ti building, which showed that the first to third floors were designed as commercial spaces, which is why they had fewer support pillars and concrete walls, experts have said.
Yun Men Tsui Ti residents said the lower levels were converted into a hotel nine years ago, with ownership changing several times. About four years ago, the proprietor of the Beauty Inn took over and initiated major renovations.
Some residents alleged that the proprietor expanded room space by knocking down walls, which they said damaged and weakened the building’s structure and could have been a major reason for its partial collapse during the quake.
In other news, water supply in Hualien County has been completely restored after the quake temporarily cut off service to about 40,000 households, Taiwan Water Corp （台灣自來水） said yesterday.
The earthquake ruptured water pipelines in Hualien City, the Meilun area and Xincheng Township （新城）, but Taiwan Water moved quickly to fix more than 800 sections of damaged pipe.
The operation took an entire week and saw more than 500 people working day and night to restore the water supply before the Lunar New Year, the company said.
Several areas in the water network still require adjustments and repairs, but they will not affect the overall supply of water, it said.
The expected surge in water use during the six-day Lunar New Year holiday could lead to low water pressure in certain areas, the state-owned corporation said.
While Taiwan Water’s teams are busy fixing the pipelines, it has stationed 45 water retrieving stations throughout the area and activated seven water delivery routes to provide water for hospitals and those in urgent need of water.