Shenzhen’s landmark electronics skyscraper closed for investigation after shaking triggers panic

·3-min read

SEG Plaza, the fifth-tallest skyscraper in China’s southern technology hub of Shenzhen, remained closed on Wednesday after it shook mysteriously and caused a panic in the city’s famous Huaqiangbei electronics district on Tuesday afternoon.

Although an initial government investigation found the structure to be safe, a visit to the site on Wednesday showed that only security and investigation personnel were being allowed into the building. One security guard outside the building said there is no timetable for reopening it before the investigation concludes.

The mysterious shaking of the 20-year-old building that spans more than 70 storeys sent thousands of its tenants, mostly staff of small companies that rent office space in the tower, fleeing through the streets around lunchtime on Tuesday. Videos of crowds scurrying away from the building went viral on social media, and topics related to the accident were trending on Chinese microblogging site Weibo.

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The shaking of the office building also affected the SEG Electronics Market, a 10-storey structure that sits at the base of the tower. It has long been one of Shenzhen‘s most famous wholesale electronics markets, where buyers can find an array of obscure hardware components. Merchants were allowed to enter this area on Wednesday, but customers were still being denied entrance.

Many merchants in the SEG market said they did not feel the shaking on Tuesday, suggesting it was mostly just the central tower that was affected.

“Vendors from the ninth floor said they felt it and that the shaking felt like an earthquake,” said Hu Jian, a live-streaming equipment vendor in the building. “We couldn’t feel it from the second floor.”

Merchants were asked not to return to the building until Wednesday morning, multiple sellers said. It also does not appear to have significantly impacted business, they said, as they can still sell online and they expect customers to be allowed back in soon.

“If they allow us merchants to enter today, then maybe the shaking isn’t that serious,” said Chen Dongyue, an audio equipment merchant from the seventh floor of the electronics market, who added that she also did not feel the shaking.

Traffic in the surrounding area was back to normal by Tuesday afternoon, with barricade tape confined to SEG Plaza. A day later, some passers-by were still taking pictures under the building.

The government of the city’s Futian district, where SEG Plaza is located, posted a statement on Weibo on Tuesday night that said the investigation is under way and that the public will get more details when they are available.

Preliminary inspections by on-site experts found that there are no safety-related abnormalities in the building’s main structure or surrounding environment, the government said in the statement. There were no cracks found in the ground nearby, the interior steel structure was normal, and curtain wall panels and other decorative surfaces did not fall off or sustain damage, it added.

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