At least 10 people were injured and six remain missing after a 450-foot-long bridge in eastern Taiwan came crashing down Tuesday as an oil tanker truck was driving across, according to local news reports. The truck fell onto three fishing boats beneath the bridge and burst into flames.
Video from the scene shows the Nanfangao Bridge in Su’ao Township of Taiwan’s Yilan County collapse around 9:30 a.m. local time, sending more than 200 first responders, including the Taiwanese military and coast guard personnel, on a search for survivors that has stretched into the evening.
Most of the missing and injured were migrant fishermen from the Philippines and Indonesia.
“We have checked hospital records, asked boat owners and also colleagues of the missing workers, and we believe the missing workers are the six from our agency,” Tseng Yen-pu, a representative of Sang Yi International manpower agency told state-run news agency CNA on Tuesday night.
The cause of the 20-year-old bridge’s sudden collapse remains unknown, but Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen promised that the government would thoroughly investigate and that all bridges in Taiwan will undergo inspection.
Several local news outlets noted that a typhoon had battered the area in recent days, with winds reaching 85 mph to 100 mph, although the weather was clear Tuesday morning. A low-magnitude earthquake also struck the area Monday morning, the Taiwan News reported. Meanwhile, consultants charged with maintaining the bridge said that in previous years, they had found rusted suspension cables and connection points that had been damaged by vehicles, the New York Times said, citing the local Liberty Times newspaper.
Tsai said cleanup efforts were expected to be finished by Wednesday so regular activity could resume at the port.
Despite its relatively small population, about 41,000, Su’ao Township encompasses a bustling port in southeast Taiwan and is known for its seafood and cold springs, according to the local tourism board. Nanfangao Bridge is considered a tourist attraction in Yilan County, according to the Associated Press. It was built to replace a lower bridge so that fishing boats and other vessels could pass below.
The bridge had the distinction of being the only single-span arch bridge in Taiwan supported by cables and the second single arch-cable steel bridge in the world, the AP reports.