Page last updated at 08:40 GMT, Sunday, 16 November 2008

China tunnel collapse kills three


China tunnel collapse kills three

At least three people have been killed and 17 more trapped when a half-built subway tunnel in the Chinese city of Hangzhou collapsed, state media says.

A wide section of road over the subway collapsed, trapping workers and creating a 50ft (15m) deep crater into which more than 11 vehicles plunged.

The situation was made worse when river water poured into the tunnel, flooding it to a depth of 15ft (5m).

Those trapped are believed to be mostly workers building the new metro system.

Nineteen people are reported to be have been injured.

Desperate scramble

The accident happened on Saturday as work took place on a section of the metro system in Xiaoshan district, in the south-east of Hangzhou, in Zhejiang province.

A section of road 250ft (75m) long caved in, sending workers below ground scrambling for safety.

"Lots of workers immediately rushed to the hoist to be lifted above ground," said worker Zhu Juzhong, quoted by the official Xinhua news agency.

Crater left by subway cave-in
Rescuers have pumped much of the water out of the crater

He said about 30 of his colleagues made it to the lift, but three fell back down during the rush to escape.

"Some colleagues who moved slowly were buried," he added.

Xinhua said that 11 vehicles were engulfed, including a public bus carrying 26 passengers, all of whom managed to escape.

Of the three confirmed dead, one was a worker and another a taxi passenger. The third has not been identified, the agency said.

State television reported that the 19 people taken to hospital were in a stable condition.

State media initially said more than 50 were feared trapped on Saturday, but the figure was revised to 17 by Sunday morning.

Nearby homes have been evacuated and Xinhua said authorities were not ruling out the possibility of more collapses along the tunnel.

The provincial governor has ordered a suspension of subway construction, the report said.

The 43-mile (68.8km) subway project, launched in March last year, is being built at a cost of $5.1bn (3.4bn) and is due to be completed in 2011, Xinhua said.

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