2 Pinoys dead in Taiwan bridge collapse

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 02 2019 10:57 AM | Updated as of Oct 02 2019 07:02 PM

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MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - The bodies of two Filipinos have been recovered from the rubble after a bridge in Taiwan collapsed on Tuesday, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) said Wednesday.

One Filipino fisherman remains missing, MECO director for administration Gerry De Belen said. 

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) identified the fatalities as Andree Serencio and Gorge Impang, and the missing fisherman as Romulo Escalicas Jr. 

Impang's family will receive all benefits as he was an active member of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. Serencio, meanwhile, was an inactive OWWA member as of 2017, DOLE said.

"We will assist in the repatriation of human remains and to process all benefits and entitlements arising from the accident," it said in a statement, adding scholarship will be given to the victims’ children.

Five other Filipinos were confirmed injured by the incident and brought to the hospital. They were identified as Julio Gimawa, Jason Villaruel, Allan Alcansano, John Vicente Royo and June Flores.

Rescuers are also searching for an Indonesian fisherman, local authorities said.

Divers joined hundreds of rescuers in the search effort, using cranes and excavators to raise the wreckage of two fishing boats after Tuesday's accident injured 10 people, most of them fishermen from Indonesia and the Philippines.

"As of 8:48 a.m., rescuers found the body of a foreign fisherman...while the search for two missing foreign fishermen continues," the National Fire Agency said in a statement.

One body was pulled from waters near the crash site while divers combed the wrecks for the missing fishermen.

Dramatic video images released by Taiwan's Coast Patrol Corps showed the arched bridge collapsing just as an oil tanker was crossing. Plumes of black smoke went up after the cargo of fuel burst into flames.

It was not immediately known what caused the collapse, which crushed three boats and set the tanker ablaze in the town of Suao. The bridge, dubbed the "lovers' bridge," was built in 1998, and attracted tourists.

The rare incident shocked many in Taiwan, which is regularly hit by earthquakes and typhoons and has high building standards, prompting authorities to launch a review of all old bridges.

The government has set up a task force to investigate, with President Tsai Ing-wen vowing not to "evade responsibilities."

"The Nanfangao bridge was regularly checked and maintained," Taiwan International Ports Corporation (TIPC), which managed the bridge's maintenance, said in a statement, adding that it had observed safety regulations.

The bridge was last reinforced in 2018 and another security check was due next year, the company said. Problems such as rusty steel and cracks in concrete had been fixed during a check last October, it added.

-- With reports from Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News; Reuters