Building of airport suspended

By Yan Jie in Beijing, Li Yingqing and Guo Anfei in Kunming (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-01-05 07:43
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 Building of airport suspended

An injured worker is rescued from the airport construction site in a stretcher on Sunday, after an overpass collapsed, killing seven. Zhang Yongqiang

Local govt orders halt until safety inspections are complete

The bustling construction site where China's fourth-largest air hub will emerge came to a sudden standstill yesterday, when the local government ordered all work to be suspended after Sunday's bridge collapse that killed seven workers.

The accident also left 34 injured, including eight seriously. On Sunday, a section of the overpass plunged roughly 7.5 meters to the ground near Kunming, capital of Southwest China's Yunnan province.

The hub is supposed to be finished by 2012. The crashed section was 38 meters long and 13 meters wide.

The cause of the collapse is under investigation, said Wang Jinsheng, spokesman for the new airport's construction headquarters.

He dismissed speculation that the workers had rushed to wrap up the construction, giving safety and quality a backseat.

"They were not hurrying to finish the building of the overpass," said Wang at the accident site over the phone.

An estimated 20,000 workers were working on the construction site as of early December 2009, local media reported.

The local government has demanded that all construction work at the unfinished airport be put on hold until safety reviews are finished.

All who died were migrant workers, with five from Yunnan, one from the bordering Guizhou province and the other one from Northeast China.

Gao Shiying, 39, and her husband Fan Zhenqing, 45, could not find their son, Fan Tianqiang, when the scaffolding holding freshly irrigated cement crashed into a pile of debris on Sunday.

The couple, with more than 30 workers, was on the highest part of the scaffolding at the moment of the collapse, while their son was working inside the structure with other workers.

"I didn't know my son was dead until 7 or 8 pm on Sunday," said Gao yesterday, lying in a ward bed. She was slightly injured in the waist, according to Wang Hailong, a surgeon at the Jingkai Hospital in Kunming. The hospital is the closest to the construction site.

For as long as 50 minutes, Gao would not allow rescuers to take her to the hospital, despite her pain. She insisted on seeing her son pulled out of the debris.

She earned a monthly income of 1,200 yuan ($176) for working 11.5 hours a day. Salaries for overtime work in the evening amount to four yuan an hour, said Gao.

More than 23 billion yuan will be invested in the airport that covers 15.98 sq km, according to Xinhua news agency.

The airport will become China's fourth-largest air hub after completion, targeting the South Asian and Southeastern Asian countries, with an annual capacity of 38 million passengers and 950,000 metric tons of cargo by 2020.

Building of airport suspended

(China Daily 01/05/2010 page5)