SUAO, YILAN, Taiwan (Reuters) - Six fishermen were believed trapped in boats twelve hours after a bridge collapsed into a harbour in northeastern Taiwan on Tuesday, injuring 10 other people as it crushed several fishing boats.
The rescue mission continued into the nighttime, as hundreds of rescuers scrambled to use cranes, excavators and other equipment to free the boats under spotlights.
“Six people were still trapped in the boats and the rescue mission continues,” the National Fire Agency said in a statement.
Earlier in the afternoon, military tugs pulled out the wreck of one fishing boat but no survivors were found.
The agency said most of the ten injured were foreign fishermen. All six missing crew were from Indonesia and the Philippines.
“The bridge collapsed at around 9:30 a.m. while an oil tanker vehicle was on it, setting the vehicle on fire,” said Shih I-chun, the secretary to the mayor of the port town of Suao, the site of the collapse.
“We feared that some fishermen might be trapped in the boats.”
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters near the port in Suao that the government “must find out the cause of the incident and should not evade responsibility,” adding that she has ordered security checks for all old bridges in Taiwan.
The government has set up a task force to investigate the incident.
(For a graphic on 'Taiwan bridge collapse' click tmsnrt.rs/2o4ttPb)
Authorities have set up an emergency centre and the military said marines and the navy were helping with the rescue efforts.
“Saving life is the priority,” Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said in a post on Facebook. “I will ask related authorities to make all efforts for the rescue.”
The bridge, which carries traffic over the busy fishing port, damaged three fishing boats and two vehicles, including the oil tanker, when it collapsed in clear weather, two officials said, though the reason was not immediately clear.
A tourist site dubbed the “lovers’ bridge,” it was built in 1998 and its structure was reinforced in 2018, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency said.
Reporting by Fabian Hamacher and Yimou Lee; Writing by Neil Fullick: Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jane Wardell