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Sunday, April 4, 1999 Published at 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

Death sentence over bridge collapse

Chong Qing's Rainbow Bridge collapsed, killing 40

A local party official in Chongqing, southwestern China, has been sentenced to death for accepting bribes, and dereliction of duty over the construction of a bridge which later collapsed.

The 180 metre-long Rainbow bridge collapsed in Qijiang county in January, three years after it had been built by a private contractor.

The official Xinhua news agency said investigations showed the steel bridge was of inferior quality, and that the accident resulted from official dereliction of duty and mistakes in engineering and construction.

Forty people died and 14 people were injured in the tragedy.

Appeals possible

The Chongqing court announced that Lin Shiyuan, former deputy secretary of the Qijiang County Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, should be sentenced to death for his part in the tragedy.

Another 12 accused over the incident, including the bridge's contractor, engineer, materials supplier, and several government officials concerned, each received a fixed-term imprisonment, ranging from three to 13 years.

According to Chinese law, the defendants can appeal to a higher court.

The trial has aroused national interest in China and was broadcast live on television.

Government warnings

Last December, the Chinese Government highlighted the corruption behind a rash of poorly-completed construction programmes in China.

The Prime Minister, Zhu Rongji warned the builders of the huge Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze River, that any negligence in the construction work would bring disaster.

The dam will be the world's largest hydro-electric project on its completion in 10 years' time.

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