64 killed in bridge collapse

18 March 2008

At least 64 people, many of them construction workers, were killed on August 12, when a bridge under construction in the southern Chinese town of Fenghuang collapsed. Local reports said the collapse occurred as scaffolding was being removed from the 42 m high, 268 m long road and pedestrian bridge.

Reporting of the collapse was initially banned by local offcials, fuelling suspicions that government oficers and contractors had colluded to cut-costs on the scheme, and were partly to blame. However, attempts to suppress the story failed and China's president Hu Jintao has called for a swift investigation into the bridge collapse, telling oficials to severely punish those responsible.

Local media reports quote survivors as saying there had been concerns among the workers about the large size of the four stone arches capping the bridge and the lack of steel reinforcement in the structure, which consisted mainly of stone and concrete.

Reports suggest that a large number of construction workers are still trapped in the debris of the bridge over the Tuo River. More than 1500 rescue workers were looking for survivors among the debris.

China's State Council has set up a panel that will probe for problems with the project design, public bidding, construction, management or construction supervision.

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