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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 August 2007, 21:43 GMT 22:43 UK
Chinese bridge collapse kills 36
Rescuers carry a victim at the site of a collapsed bridge in Fenghuang

At least 36 people were killed and dozens injured when a bridge collapsed while under construction in the town of Fenghuang, in China's Hunan province.

The bridge had reportedly been scheduled to open later this month at what is a popular Chinese tourist spot.

There were 123 workers on the bridge removing scaffolding at the time of the accident, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua.

China has identified more than 6,000 bridges that are damaged or dangerous.

The government in Beijing has pledged to fix or rebuild all the damaged bridges in an ambitious plan to make the country's road network safer by 2010, the China Daily newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Investigation under way

Rescuers reportedly managed to save 86 people from the wreckage of the bridge, including 22 people who were injured in the accident.

Dramatic pictures from the scene showed bulldozers and rescue workers, including about 400 soldiers, searching through a huge pile of rubble.

Initially the death toll was given as 29, but more bodies were found as the search continued.

"I saw a lot of bodies lying on the road, some of them were construction workers and some were passers-by... blood was everywhere," one witness told Reuters news agency.

Bulldozers and rescuers are searching the scene for survivors

"A car was crushed flat under the bridge, it was so ruined that I could not even tell the size of the car," he added.

"The whole thing collapsed," said Nong Xiaozhong, one of two survivors in a 12-man construction team on 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," he told the Associated Press from hospital, where he is being treated for injuries to his abdomen.

The 320m (1,049ft) bridge was being built to span the Jiantuo River, connecting the hilly Fenghuang County with neighbouring Guizhou Airport.

Xinhua said the workers had been busy "dismantling steel scaffolding erected during the construction process" when the collapse occurred.

According to local media sources, most of those working on the 12m yuan ($1.58m) bridge were local farmers who had been recruited for the project. The cause of the accident is under investigation. The bridge's construction manager and project supervisor have been detained for questioning, Xinhua reported.

Map

The accident comes amid growing concern about the state of China's infrastructure in the country's rush for development.

In its annual report last year, the ministry of communications identified 6,300 bridges across the country that were dangerous because of serious damage to "important structural components", the China Daily reported.

Xiao Rucheng, of the Institute of Bridge and Structural Engineering, was quoted by the paper as saying that many of the newer bridges had been built in haste, and older ones were unable to cope with today's traffic flows.

"China should learn a lesson from the collapse of the Mississippi bridge, and accelerate the inspection of unsafe bridges," he said, referring to the 1 August collapse of a bridge in the US that killed at least nine people.


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Rescuers search the bridge wreckage






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