Taiwan divers search for trapped sailors after a bridge collapse killed four

Rescuers in Taiwan were searching on Wednesday for two foreign fishermen believed to have been trapped in boats crushed after a bridge collapsed into a northeastern harbor, killing four people, 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.

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