Survivor of Vietnam's fatal scaffolding collapse: 'We ran but were ordered to return to work'

By Thanh Nien Staff, Thanh Nien News

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 Nguyen Van Si, 25, one of about 30 injured workers in a scaffolding accident that left at least 15 people dead in the central province of Ha Tinh on March 25. Photo: Khanh Hoan

Some survivors of a catastrophic scaffolding collapse that killed at least 15 people in the central province of Ha Tinh on Wednesday told Thanh Nien that they had seen the accident coming. 
They said they even tried to flee the site but their foreign supervisor ordered them to return to work.
Phan Anh Dung, 23, one of the injured victims, said he and many other workers were working on the scaffolding at around 5:30 p.m. when they heard some “cracking” and the structure was “shaking”, apparently “moving”.
Fearing that the structure would collapse, they climbed down and ran away, but a few minutes later their supervisor ordered them to return, he said.
“We had to come back and 30 minutes later, the scaffolding tumbled down,” Dung said.
The metal structure, which was at least 30 meters high and weighed thousands of metric tons before the collapse, was part of the construction of a breakwater to protect a port invested by Taiwanese-owned Formosa Plastics Group.
Samsung C&T, a subsidiary of the South Korean-owned Samsung, is the contractor.
Another survivor, 25-year-old Nguyen Van Si, also said he was among the workers who attempted to run away from the deadly scaffolding when it “strongly shook” for the first time.
Through an interpreter, the foreign supervisor ordered them to continue working, saying that the structure was safe, Si said.
Statistics on the accident’s casualties are inconsistent. No conclusion has been made as rescue crews are working around the clock to clear the rubble that covers around 1,000 square meters.
A military official in the rescue team told Thanh Nien that three to five workers are still being buried.
At least 15 people, all Vietnamese, were killed. Most of them have been identified. The youngest was 27 years old.
About 30 people have been hospitalized with severe injuries.
Gov’t response

Rescuers clearing the rubble of the scaffolding that weighed thousands of tons to retrieve more victims. Photo: Nguyen Dung

The worst construction accident in Vietnam since 2007 has prompted the government to take immediate action.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on Thursday ordered Ha Tinh’s authorities to collaborate with state agencies in rescuing the victims. He also sent his condolences to the victims’ families.
His deputy Hoang Trung Hai rushed to the province, soon after the accident happened, to oversee the rescue mission.
Construction Minister Trinh Dinh Dung ordered local authority to check the safety of other projects under construction at the same site, and suspend any work deemed unsafe.
Formosa launched work on a complex that consisted of the port and a steel complex in Vung Ang Economic Zone in July 2008 with the initial investment of nearly $10 billion. As of December last year, the project has recruited around 40,000 laborers, nearly 5,700 of whom are Chinese.
Early this month the Government Inspectorate found that managers at the Vung Ang Zone went beyond their authority and broke quite a few rules when offering too many incentives to Formosa. Among the violations, according to the inspectorate, the Formosa complex was illegally licensed for a 70-year period.
Vietnam's investment law states that a foreign-invested project must not last more than 50 years, and if necessary, the government may extend the length of the project for 20 more years. The government, however, has not given any extension to the Formosa project yet.
The most recent catastrophe at this scale took place on September 26, 2007, when two spans of a bridge which was being built in the Mekong Delta collapsed, killing 55 workers and injured 80 others.
Work on Can Tho Bridge, which connects Can Tho City and Vinh Long Province, was completed in 2010.

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