One-third of concrete pillar with dead boy inside excavated from construction site

By Ngoc Tai   January 16, 2023 | 02:07 am PT
One-third of concrete pillar with dead boy inside excavated from construction site
Steel sheet piles are placed around the concrete pillar where a boy was trapped inside, Dong Thap Province, January 15, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khanh
Seventeen days after a 10-year-old boy fell into a 35-meter-deep concrete pillar in southern Vietnam, where he was trapped and died, rescue workers have managed to pull the pillar up by just 12m.

Rescuers are pulling the concrete pillar up section by section.

Nam and three other children who are his neighbors went to the bridge construction site in Dong Thap Province 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, which is just 25cm across.

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 that there had been no response from the boy after that.

Dong Thap authorities announced Nam dead on January 4.

Provincial Deputy Chairman Doan Tan Buu said then that a team of medical and forensics experts and local authorities concluded 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.

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

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

Furthermore, in the past two weeks southern Vietnam has been hit several heavy rain storms.

The current method being applied used at the site includes a series of jobs: place steel sheet piles around the concrete pillar and then place a steel pillar, which has a diameter of 2m and 24m deep, around the concrete pillar. After that, soil is removed from the space between the concrete pillar and the steel pillar to reduce frictions.

Then, two more steel sheet piles are buried into the ground and attached to the concrete pillar before a crane pulls it up.

By Monday, a 12-m section of the pillar had been excavated.

A 12-meter section of the concrete pillar is pulled up on early January 16, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khanh

A 12-meter section of the concrete pillar is pulled up early on January 16, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Khanh

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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