Survival of an industrial accident requires quick community assistance and an adaptable network of rescuers. While the chances of survival for Chilean mine workers are currently fair, the victims of Cologne’s recent building collapse never had a chance.
Chilean Mine Disaster
Copiapo in Chile is ground zero for the latest mining disaster and an amazing story of survival. The New York Times explains that 33 miners have been trapped 2,000 feet underground for 18 days already, only to find out that their collapsed mine will become a prison for another four months.
Officials estimate that is will take at least this long to dig a secondary escape tunnel through which the trapped miners may safely exit the mine. At this time, the only lifeline to the community at large and the rescuers in particular are a series of narrow shafts through which water, food and camera as well as microphone equipment may be lowered.
Continued survival of this industrial accident now requires an absence of earthquakes and further cave-ins, as well as the ability of the 33 miners to hold on in the dark confines of the mine while rescuers dig.
Cologne Municipal Archive Building Collapse
Two fatalities marked the collapse of Cologne’s state archive building in March of 2009. Measuring six stories, the German archive housed documents dating back to 922 AD. It is interesting to note that the building itself only dates back to 1971, which made it an unlikely candidate for an industrial accident or collapse.
Cologne’s community reacted with anger to the loss of the municipal archive. Since the attached building collapse also demolished two adjacent apartment buildings, the fatality count could have been higher. Two deaths nevertheless were two too many for residents who have long eyed the nearby subway building project with a mix of suspicion and unease.
The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger explains that safety measures at the building site may not have been sufficient to prevent the sudden influx of groundwater, which then crushed the tunneling project that turned the ground beneath the municipal archives into Swiss cheese. Yet there is still more to the tragedy than meets the eye.
For example, stress fractures were visible a year before the collapse and a whistle blower requested an inspection of the building by a state engineer. The latter considered the evidence of stress on the building’s foundation to be negligible. Officials have drawn a number of conclusions about the building collapse and – while not acknowledging responsibility – proposed enhanced safety measures and inspection standards for future subway construction projects.
Plenty of locals do not consider this to be sufficient; instead, there are rumblings that squarely place the blame for the collapse on the general contractor and the inspectors who failed to notice and acknowledge the warning signs. As one commenter put so succinctly: “Not everyone working in the field of excavation is an expert.”
Survival Likely to Dictate Community Reaction to the Chilean Mine Disaster
Whereas Germans mourned the deaths of the archive building collapse in Cologne and pointed angry fingers to those whom they believed to be responsible, families of those in the Chilean mine collapse work together with officials to save the trapped miners. The extent of this partnership and also the end result of the rescue efforts are sure to determine the community’s response to this industrial accident.