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Uncompleted bridge collapses in China; 34 dead

About 30 people are missing. Critics fear economic boom drives construction too fast.

August 15, 2007|From the Associated Press

BEIJING — A bridge under construction in the southern Chinese town of Fenghuang collapsed after scaffolding was removed, killing at least 34 people, injuring 22 and rekindling concern about rushed, shoddy building amid China's torrid economic expansion.

About 30 people were missing. Witnesses said they heard a rumble Monday afternoon and saw stones fall from the 140-foot-high, 880-foot-long vehicle and pedestrian bridge across the Tuo River.

"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," said Nong Xiaozhong, one of two survivors from a 12-man construction team that was under the bridge. He spoke by phone from a hospital.

Nong said he and his fellow workers had worried that the bridge's stone arches were too large and that the mortar was not dry enough to remove the scaffolding.

Rescuers with dogs and bulldozers sifted through mounds of concrete and managed to save 86 people, the government's New China News Agency reported.

Police detained two officials with the builder, the state-owned Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Co., the news agency said.

The Work Safety Administration of Hunan province, home to Fenghuang, said the accident was under investigation.

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

The state-run China Daily newspaper reported Tuesday that the Communications Ministry last year deemed 6,300 bridges dangerous because of serious damage to their "structural components." It quoted a prominent engineer as warning that many new bridges were poorly designed and built and that China needed to heed the Aug. 1 collapse of a bridge in Minnesota that killed at least nine people.

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