China Bridge Collapse Kills 22

A bridge being built as a tourist attraction in central China collapsed, killing at least 22 people and leaving 46 missing, China Central Television reported Tuesday.

China Bridge Collapse Kills 22
The official Xinhua News Agency said 64 people were rescued, including 22 who were injured when the 1,049-foot bridge spanning the Jiantuo River in Hunan province collapsed Monday. The cause of the collapse was under investigation, it said.

The 140-foot-high bridge in Hunan's Fenghuang County had four decorative stone arches and was scheduled to open at the end of this month, Xinhua said. It collapsed as workers were removing scaffolding from its facade, it said.

CCTV showed bulldozers plowing through the rubble, overturning chunks of stone and concrete mixed in a tangle of steel reinforcement bars.

Xinhua said Hunan Governor Zhou Qiang was at the scene overseeing rescue efforts.

Most of the people working on the bridge were local farmers, the agency said.

"I was riding a bike with my husband and we had just passed under the bridge and were about 50 meters (160 feet) away when it collapsed," said a witness, who would only gave her surname, Wu. "There was a huge amount of dust that came up and didn't clear for about 10 minutes."

Xinhua said the bridge was a $1.6 million project by the Fengda company of western Hunan. It said the contractor was the provincial Road and Bridge Construction (Group) Ltd. Co., or RBC.

RBC construction manager Xia Youjia and project supervisor Jiang Ping had been detained for questioning, it said.

Construction accidents in China are frequent, with contractors often opting for shoddy materials to cut costs and using migrant laborers with little or no safety training.

In its annual report on road safety last year, the Ministry of Communications categorized 6,300 of the country's bridges as dangerous because of serious damage to their "structural components," the China Daily newspaper reported Tuesday.

The newspaper quoted Xiao Rucheng, secretary general of China's Institute of Bridge and Structural Engineering, as saying many of the country's new bridges were being built too quickly and were poorly designed.

Xiao also said China should "learn a lesson from the Mississippi bridge and accelerate the inspection of unsafe bridges," referring to the Aug. 1 collapse of a major interstate bridge in Minneapolis that killed nine people and left four others still missing.

Authorities are trying to determine exactly what caused the nearly four-decade-old Minnesota bridge to crumble.

Surrounded by lush mountains and rice paddies, the ancient city of Fenghuang is a well-known tourist spot and home to the Miao ethnic minority. It is also famed for traditional stilt houses lining the Tuo River.

The Fenghuang bridge collapse was among China's worst in recent memory. On June 15, a bridge in south China's Guangdong province collapsed when a cargo vessel loaded with sand rammed into it, killing nine people. That bridge was built in 1988 and spanned the Xijiang River, a major tributary of the Pearl River.

In January 1999, a pedestrian bridge spanning the Qi River in southwestern China's Sichuan province collapsed three years after it was built. Forty people died and another 14 were injured.

Following the accident, a local county deputy party secretary was sentenced to death for accepting a bribe from a childhood friend in exchange for the bridge-building contract.

The China Daily ran an editorial Tuesday saying rising traffic levels made the need for nationwide bridge repairs and upgrades an urgent issue.

"If left unrepaired these bridges may crumble at any time, (wreaking) economic havoc and possibly claiming human lives," it said, without mentioning the Fenghuang disaster, which wasn't reported by state media until late Monday.

AP
Last Mod: 14 Ağustos 2007, 11:41
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