Archive for Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Collapse spurs questions of quality

August 15, 2007

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— The collapse of a bridge under construction that left at least 29 people dead in a Chinese tourist town rekindled concerns Tuesday about rushed, shoddy building amid the country's economic expansion.

Witnesses heard a rumble and saw stones fall from the structure Monday afternoon after construction workers removed scaffolding from the 140-foot-high, 880-foot-long vehicle and pedestrian bridge across the Tuo River in the southern town of Fenghuang.

"The whole thing collapsed," said Nong Xiaozhong, one of two survivors in a 12-man construction team working under the bridge.

"There was no time to warn the other workers and I just managed to run a few steps before I was covered under the stones," Nong said in a telephone interview from the Fenghuang Chinese Medicine Hospital where he was being treated for pain in his abdomen. "I crawled to the road nearby and an ambulance came in 10 minutes. I was rescued."

The accident came less than two weeks after the collapse of a bridge in Minnesota that drew attention to aging transport infrastructure in the United States. Nine people were confirmed dead in that collapse, and divers are still seeking the bodies of four missing motorists presumed killed.

In China, 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, the government's Xinhua News Agency reported. The death toll rose steadily as rescuers with trained dogs and bulldozers sifted through mounds of toppled concrete.

Police detained two officials from the builder, the state-owned Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Co., Xinhua said.

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