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China bridge collapse kills 22

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« on: August 14, 2007, 05:11:53 am »

 China bridge collapse kills 22
By ALEXA OLESEN, Associated Press Writer


Rescuers carry a victim at the site of a collapsed bridge in Fenghuang, in central China's Hunan province Tuesday Aug. 14, 2007. The 320-meter (1,049-foot) bridge, which was being built as a tourist attraction over the Jiantuo River, collapsed as workers were removing scaffolding Monday, killing at least 14 people and injuring 22. (AP Photo)

BEIJING - A bridge under construction in an ancient Chinese city collapsed as workers removed scaffolding from its facade, killing at least 22 people and leaving 46 missing, state television reported Tuesday.

The official Xinhua News Agency said 64 people were rescued, including 22 who were injured when the 1,049-foot bridge spanning the Tuo 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 as a tourist attraction at the end of this month, Xinhua said. It collapsed as 123 workers were removing scaffolding from its facade, it said.

China Central Television showed bulldozers plowing through the rubble, overturning chunks of stone and concrete mixed in a tangle of steel reinforcement bars. It said 22 people died and 46 were missing.

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, without giving the company's full name.

An employee of a Fengda Road Construction Company in Fenghuang said he was not clear if the bridge project was his company's or not. He refused to give his name.

Xinhua identified the contractor as the state-owned Hunan Road and Bridge Construction (Group) Ltd. Co., or RBC.

RBC construction manager Xia Youjia and project supervisor Jiang Ping were detained for questioning, it said. Phone numbers listed on the company's Web site rang unanswered Tuesday.

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.
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« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2007, 05:12:44 am »

Looks like we aren't the only ones having trouble with our infrastructure!
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