REGIONAL NEWS

Collapsed boardwalk at Vigo festival never passed safety inspections

Port authority says seafront promenade was not checked before it gave way on Sunday, leaving nearly 430 people injured

Police investigate the collapsed promenade.
Police investigate the collapsed promenade.SALVADOR SAS (EFE)

Vigo’s port authority has said that no safety inspections were carried out on the seafront boardwalk that collapsed on Sunday, sending hundreds of people into the water below during a free music festival.

“There is no evidence that safety inspections were done in the port area in recent years,” said the president of the port authority, Enrique López Veiga. “But with respect to our responsibilities, we have done the maintenance work and we look at [the state of the port] as we go along.”

Any concrete piling close to the sea needs ongoing maintenance Police investigators

The Popular Party (PP) politician blames Vigo City Hall for the accident, claiming it was their job to maintain the wooden promenade, which gave way when around 3,000 people were watching a hip hop concert at the 18th edition of the O Mariquiño festival. Nearly 430 people were injured in the accident and six remain in hospital, according to the latest information from the regional government.

“I understand that this is a terrible case and the City Hall wants to avoid its responsibilities, but it’s crystal clear,” said López Veiga.

According to an agreement signed in 1992 between the port, customs-free zone and Vigo City Hall, the City Hall must “maintain the entire structure in a perfect state, either with its own resources or by the timely recruitment of works and services,” said López Veiga.

“It is obviously a municipal responsibility,” he added, arguing the agreement “refers to the entire structure, including the concrete pilings – not just the wooden platform,” which was installed by City Hall.

López Veiga also said that the port authority had approved the concert “at the risk and responsibility of the organizers, and this included infrastructure risks.”

The collapse occurred due to a structural fault in one of the concrete pilings, which caused it to buckle. From the start, the president of the port authority admitted that the piling “did not look like it had much steel” inside, but later said that port infrastructure “does not deteriorate easily” and argued there “was no legal obligation” to review it unless “problems were detected.”

Vigo Mayor Abel Caballero, of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), has dismissed the port authority’s accusations and called on the PP to review the documents that cede the port “to the Vigo Nautical Club.” Caballero argues that the Vigo Port Plan, published in the Official State Gazette (BOE) in 2005, “clearly says that the collapsed area is the nautical-sporting area in the port. This is not my opinion, it is a fact. I don’t know why an enormous concrete structure, one that was installed 10 years before an agreement of which it is not a part was signed, would collapse. We will have to wait for the technical reports. Why would City Hall have been in charge of maintaining a port area?”

There is no evidence that safety inspections were done in the port zone in recent years Port authority president Enrique López Veiga

The Vigo mayor has accused the opposition PP of “looking to cause political damage” with “interpretations” of the agreements, explaining that on July 24 a meeting was held at the port authority ahead of the festival to deal with all aspects of safety. There were “no objections” on the issue of safety, he said. 

The judge in charge of investigating the accident has ordered the entire seafront boardwalk to be closed off for “security reasons.” Meanwhile, two engineers from the National Police force will try to determine why the concrete piling that suspended the promenade buckled.

The investigators did not want to share their hypothesis about what went wrong but confirmed that “any concrete piling close to the sea, or in this case directly supported in the sea, needs ongoing maintenance” and “periodic checks” at least once every five years. Such inspections are “essential in an environment as aggressive as the sea.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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