Japanese experts help excavate concrete pillar with boy inside

By Ngoc Tai, Hoang Nam   January 5, 2023 | 11:57 pm PT
A group of Japanese experts has arrived in southern Dong Thap Province to help pull up a 35-m-deep pillar with the body of a dead boy inside.

The experts have developed a plan to extricate the hollow pillar, which has a diameter of 25cm and is buried underground at the construction site of a bridge.

However, due to a lack of machinery, the experts have yet to start work, said Doan Tan Buu, Dong Thap’s deputy chairman.

The experts suggested that a steel pillar with a larger diameter will be placed around the concrete pillar at a depth of 24m. Then water will be pumped in to remove all the soil.

After that, cables will be attached to the concrete pillar at three different positions, with two lying 24m and 12m underground and one near the ground.

The pillar will finally be pulled up by a hydraulic jack, a mechanical device which is employed to lift heavy loads.

"Only when we have all needed equipment, can rescuers come up with the safest and most effective way to do this," Buu said Friday.

Rescuers and experts at the site where 10-year-old Thai Ly Hao Nam fell into a concrete pillar in Dong Thap Province, January 5, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam

Rescuers and experts at the site where 10-year-old Thai Ly Hao Nam fell into a concrete pillar in Dong Thap Province, January 5, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Nam

Dong Thap authorities are also considering expanding the hole where the pillar is buried by around 60 meters in radius in order to excavate it, if no other method works.

No matter how difficult or costly it is, we will make an effort to the end," said Buu. "We will not give up halfway."

Thai Ly Hao Nam, 10, who fell into the hole by accident on December 31, was announced dead on Wednesday evening.

Deputy Chairman Buu said that a team of medical and forensics experts and local authorities concluded on January 4 that the boy had died based on various factors, including the location of the accident, the depth of the pillar, the length of time the rescue attempt had gone on, and possible injuries the boy was believed to have suffered.

Nam and three other children who are his neighbors went to the bridge construction site on Provincial Road 857 in Phu Loi Commune on December 31 to gather pieces of iron for the purpose of selling them to scrap vendors to earn some money.

The boy, who weighed merely 20kg, was walking when he fell into the hollow concrete pillar, where he was trapped.

No one knows for sure where the boy is located in the pillar. Witnesses said he screamed for help for 10 minutes after falling in, but rescuers have not heard from him since.

Police and rescuers in Dong Thap Province have coordinated with Military Zone 9 and other units to use specialized equipment to dig up the pillar but to no avail.

Rescuers explained that the concrete pillar is buried deeply in the ground, and that as its diameter is too narrow, the rescue mission had faced several challenges.

The provincial government acknowledged that the lack of experience, limited machinery and human resources made the rescue effort difficult and prolonged.

A firefighter in HCMC, whose unit has rescued people from hundreds of meters below ground, said this case is "very complicated" since the boy is stuck in a pillar that is too narrow for rescuers to climb into.

"The only solution is to pull the pillar up," he said.

The director of a company that produces concrete products said that pulling a pillar up is many times more difficult than burying it.

He said that putting a pillar into the ground requires a force of around 50 tons, but that the force to pull it up must be four-five times bigger.

So far, no one has created specialized equipment to pull up such a pillar at construction sites because it is extremely uncommon for contractors to do this, he said.

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