Thu, Aug 16, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Chinese rescuers look for bridge collapse survivors

RUBBLE The collapse was likely to fuel already deep public concerns about the quality of construction in a country with rampant contractor corruption


Chinese rescuers combing the rubble of a collapsed bridge for dozens of missing people recovered seven bodies yesterday, bringing the death toll to 36, as the government warned builders nationwide to learn from the disaster.

The collapse on Monday in the southern town of Fenghuang rekindled concerns about rushed, shoddy building amid China's torrid economic expansion.

Specially trained dogs and bulldozers sifted through mounds of toppled concrete in a bid to find an estimated 30 people missing.

Seven bodies were found early yesterday, said Li Ping (李平), a spokesman for the Xiangxi prefecture that includes Fenghuang. He said he did not know how many people were still unaccounted for.

State Councilor Hua Jianmian (華建敏) visited the site late on Tuesday and urged construction sites all over the country to tighten safety management and check potential risks, the official Xinhua news agency reported.


Witnesses described hearing a rumble and seeing stones fall from the structure on Monday afternoon after construction workers removed the supportive frame from the 42m high, 268m long vehicle and pedestrian bridge across the Tuo River.

Rescuers managed to save 86 people, including 22 who were injured, many from the 123 workers on the site at the time of the collapse, Xinhua said.

Police detained two officials from the builder, the state-owned Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Co, Xinhua said, even as the Work Safety Administration of Hunan Province, where Fenghuang is located, said the accident's cause was under investigation.

Nong Xiaozhong, one of two survivors in a 12-man construction team working under the bridge, said he and his fellow workers worried the bridge's stone arches were too large and that the mortar was not dry enough to remove the scaffolding.


The collapse was likely to fuel already deep public concerns about the quality of construction in a country undergoing breakneck economic development and where corruption among contractors and officials is common.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) called for a thorough investigation into the collapse, saying those responsible would be ``severely dealt with.''

Fenghuang -- an ancient trading town surrounded by lush mountains and rice paddies -- has aggressively promoted itself as a tourist destination.

The Chinese Centers for Disease Control had a team at the scene spraying disinfectant along the river banks to help prevent infections and said they would monitor river water for dangerous levels of bacteria or other contaminants, Xinhua said.

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