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Deadly potholes
Thursday,  12/13/2018, 19:56 

Deadly potholes

By Son Nguyen

Construction quality, for many State officials, is a matter of little concern and so is the people’s safety. The fatal accident that took place in the south-central province of Phu Yen this Monday speaks volumes about this irresponsibility.

Three days after the accident in which Tran Nguyen Quang Tanh, who tumbled to his death after riding his scooter into a big pothole on National Highway 1 in Phu Yen this week, no agency has taken responsibility, except the lip service. The main cause, says the local media, is the poor quality of the road, which is riddled with potholes that have led to dozens of accidents in a matter of days.

The 34-year-old Tanh was on his way to work on December 10 when he ran into a crater-like pothole, lost balance, fell down, and died instantly. Numerous such potholes are seen at the site. Grassroots officials and police officers point the finger at the dangerous condition of the road.

Huynh Minh Thuong, chairman of Hoa Xuan Dong Commune of Phu Yen Province’s Dong Hoa District, where the fatal accident took place, says in Doanh Nghiep Viet Nam that “it is a huge crater as wide as a basket and some 30cm deep. [...] Those crashing their bikes into the pothole will sustain serious injuries if not dead.”

Huynh Oanh Dung, deputy director of Dong Hoa District’s police office, furthers that numerous accidents have taken place at the site when riders fell into such holes, according to Tuoi Tre. On December 3, a man identified as Nguyen Ngoc Tuan suffered life-threatening injuries when tumbling at the site, breaking eight ribs and a shoulder bone, plus damages to his lung and skull, says the paper. One week earlier, a man had his collarbone broken after a fall at the site.

Nhan Dan Online says that as many as nine accidents took place on the road within two days of November 17 and 18, while Tuoi Tre says over 20 serious accidents happened to trucks, buses and motorcycles over the past ten days on the road near the fatal accident site.

“The road surface was submerged under rainwater, so I did not know that there were many deep potholes one after another. After crossing two holes, my truck tumbled at the third one and overturned,” a truck driver is quoted in Tuoi Tre, recalling the accident that cost him nearly VND100 million for repairing his vehicle.

The section of National Highway 1 that crosses Phu Yen Province stretches 66km was developed at a cost of VND4.3 trillion, or roughly US$180 million. It was opened to traffic only three years ago, but ever since, numerous complaints have been heard about the construction quality.

According to Phap Luat Online, the road surface deteriorates the most in two sections, at Quan Cau Pass and in An Dan Commune, where the road looks like having been plowed up, with many deep holes ready to trap and kill riders.

Vo Dinh Tien, chairman of Dong Hoa District, says in Dat Viet that prior to the accident, the local government had written to the road management agency demanding urgent repairs, but to no avail. The slow response led to the deadly accident, Tien says on the news site, stressing it is the responsibility of the road management agency to ensure safety for commuters.

Nguyen Thanh Tri, director of Phu Yen’s Department of Transport, says in Phap Luat Online that the contractor repaired the section in October, but just days later, the road has deteriorated again, with new potholes appearing and old ones widening. However, while standard repair and management has not been conducted, the contractor must take temporary measures to ensure traffic safety.

After the accident, the Thang Long Project Management Board, which oversees the road project, has sent condolences to the family of the deceased plus VND50 million, Dan Viet reports, citing Vu Ngoc Duong as deputy director of the management board. However, many people demand that this should be treated as a criminal offense.

Huynh Minh Thuong, Chairman of Hoa Xuan Dong Commune, says in Tuoi Tre that if temporary safety measures had been taken pending the repair, the fatal accident would not have taken place, and therefore, “I demand that those relevant people and agencies must be held responsible.”

Lawyer Nguyen Kha Thanh of the Phu Yen Bar Association suggests in Dan Viet that law enforcement agencies should press criminal charges against the case, given apparent signs of violations in terms of maintenance, repair and management of transport projects, or dereliction of duty leading to serious consequences.

In Tuoi Tre, Lawyer Nguyen Tuong Linh of the Khanh Hoa Bar Association asserts that there could be criminal violations as the contractor and the management agency failed to set up warning signs on the deteriorating road.

Relatives of the victims have also demanded those liable be prosecuted.

Le Huu Hung of the family says on Dan Viet that “those people managing or repairing the road must be responsible for the death. The family demands that such people take care of two little children and the aging parents of the deceased.”

Local media also challenges transport authorities over the poor quality of road projects in the country, since many roads have deteriorated after a short time of being opened to traffic.

This road section looks like a battlefield, says Sai Gon Giai Phong in an editorial. Although the local media has warned of the deterioration, although Minister of Transport Nguyen Van The has given his instruction, responsible people have been too slow in repair work, resulting in numerous accidents on the road section. The death of Tran Nguyen Quang Tanh poses a big question as to why the road has deteriorated so quickly despite its high construction cost, says the paper.

Doanh Nghiep Viet Nam raises the same question, saying that public criticisms have been widespread over the quality of National Highway 1, especially the crumbling section from Danang to Quang Ngai built at a cost of VND34.5 trillion. Deputy Minister of Transport Le Dinh Tho even took a field trip to see first-hand how poor the construction quality was, but no prompt, responsible response has been seen. The heart-rending death of Tran Nguyen Quang Tanh is an answer regarding the construction quality, says the paper.

Many deadly potholes have been seen in numerous costly road projects, and “such defects also mirror potholes in the conscience of those responsible, especially at the Ministry of Transport,” says the newspaper.

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