Death toll hits 64 in bridge collapse

Updated: 2007-08-19 19:57

The death toll from the collapsed bridge in central China's Hunan Province has risen to 64 as rescuers found more bodies on Saturday.

The rescue headquarters said Saturday that about 152 workers were working when the bridge collapsed on Monday afternoon, among whom 64 were killed, 22 injured and the others escaped unhurt.

However, a source with the rescue headquarters said final figures of the dead and missing would be announced after the rescue work was completely over.

The source said it was not easy to get the number of workers who were working on Monday afternoon, as they belonged to seven construction teams and some of them were casual laborers.

The headquarters interviewed project managers, labor contractors and families of the workers before reaching an initial estimate that 152 workers were working when the bridge collapsed.

The 22 injured workers have received "careful and good" medical treatment, the source added.

Rescuers said the search for the victims were made easier after demolition experts detonated explosives at 2:28 a.m. Friday to demolish the three collapsed concrete piers, where more bodies are believed to be buried.

They say the chances of anyone surviving in the debris are minimal.

The huge piers were too heavy to be moved and had hindered the search.

Before the explosion, experts and rescuers had searched the rubble with detection equipment, but found no signs of life.

The 328-meter-long, 42-meter-high bridge over the Tuojiang River in Fenghuang County in western Hunan Province started construction in March 2004 and had been scheduled to open to traffic at the end of the month.

An investigation into the causes of the accident is still underway.

China has suspended the building of all unreinforced arch bridges throughout the country as of Saturday, following the deadly bridge collapse in Hunan.

Minister of Communications Li Shenglin announced the order on Friday, demanding all provincial transportation departments to organize special teams to examine every unreinforced arch bridge, and construction work will not be allowed to resume before the bridges are confirmed safe.

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