Remains found not of Sewol victims

Evacuated building reopens, but tremors remain mystery

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Published : 2011-07-06 21:21
Updated : 2011-07-06 21:35

Authorities on Wednesday decided to lift the evacuation order on the high-rise office building and its adjacent shopping mall, despite being unable to discover the reason behind Tuesday’s tremors.

“Through emergency inspections for the past two days, we have not found any major issues with the structure of the building,” said Park Jong-yong, vice chief of the Gwangjin district office.

“In order to find the cause of the tremors, we will attach vibration sensors to the pillars of the building, and the public access ban will be lifted on July 7 at 9 a.m.,” he told press at a briefing.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon came out to inspect the site.

However nearby residents still remained uneasy about the safety of the building, regardless of the lifted ban, which was originally placed some four hours after the vibrations.

“I will not be going to TechnoMart any more, it makes me too uneasy,” said Kim Kyung-ran, an apartment tenant across the street.

Management also told customers a different story, moments after the tremor occurred.

A nearby tenant who had noticed the commotion while going into the mall to run some errands was told that “it was only a fire drill,” by front desk staff around 11 a.m., some 50 minutes after the vibrations started.

When the mother of two questioned the staff about the number of fire engines, the staff replied that high-rise buildings call for larger number of firefighters during a fire drill.

“Even if they announce that it is safe to go back, I wont trust it,” said the 39-year-old, who declined to give her name.

At roughly 10:10 a.m. Tuesday, the 39-story office building attached to Techno Mart, shook violently in a see-sawing motion felt on the higher floors of the building, according to occupants.

The unexplained tremor, reportedly lasting some 10 minutes, prompted an estimated 500 people to immediately flee the building, which had a total occupancy of roughly 3,000 people at the time.

Though most of store owners were relieved to hear about the lifted ban, they seem more concerned that the scare will keep away customers from the thousands of retailers, multiplex, and commercial offices.

“We appreciate and understand the role of the government to protect the people,” said a store owner.

“But we did not agree with the order to evacuate as there was not a single bit of damage,” he added.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)