Witnesses described the scene of the bridge collapse in Fenghuang County, Hunan Province, as a "horrible disaster".
The under-construction 320-m concrete arc bridge spanning the Tuojiang River collapsed on Monday during the afternoon rush hour.
Yang Shunzhong, a witness, said he saw bulldozers and rescue workers picking through a massive pile of debris stretching between the two hills on either side of the river.
Police had found dozens of bodies, and more rescue workers were searching for missing people buried amid the ruins and in the river below.
"I saw a lot of bodies lying on the road, some of them were construction workers, and some were passers-by. Blood was everywhere," Yang said. "A car was crushed flat under the bridge, it was so ruined that I could not even tell the size of the car."
"A lot of women and children were at the scene, crying and looking for their families or friends," Yang said.
A tourist from Wuhan surnamed Wang said: "I just could not believe the truth that the bridge, which stood gallantly 20 m above the water in the morning and was expected to open to traffic next month, was reduced to ruins in the evening."
"The scene is very horrible, many women tourists could not bear looking at it. Most of them shed tears," Wang said. "I am quite lucky, if I passed the road near the bridge hours earlier, I might have been hit by debris."
Bu Yi, who works at a local government organization near the bridge, said he heard what sounded like cannon shots on Monday afternoon at about 4 pm.
"A gust of wind blew through the door of my office after I heard the bangs. I rushed to the street and saw the bridge near our office had collapsed."
"My colleagues and I rushed to scene to provide help. I saw bodies and body parts everywhere. We were shocked to see such a brutal scene beyond compare in this world."
"The whole county is enveloped in a sad and miserable atmosphere. Many cars are parked at hospitals and there are shortages of large lamps and lighting equipment because of the search and rescue effort. Though this has been a booming tourist season, few people can be seen in the formerly crowded bars and pubs."
Agencies contributed to the story
(China Daily 08/15/2007 page4)