CHINA> Regional
Death toll rises to 12 in subway tunnel collapse
Updated: 2008-11-22 20:28

HANGZHOU - A week after a subway tunnel under construction collapsed in east China's Zhejiang Province, the confirmed death toll has risen to 12, with another nine people still missing.

Rescuers found two more dead bodies Saturday in the mire of the collapsed subway tunnel in Hangzhou, the provincial capital, the emergency rescue headquarters told Xinhua.

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More than 400 rescuers continued to remove sludge from the tunnel in search of the remaining nine people -- all of whom were believed dead by now, said a rescue worker.

"We are crossing fingers hoping the weather won't hamper our work," he said, without giving his name. The weather forecast said Hangzhou was in for rain Saturday night.

"It's already very difficult to remove the sludge -- could be worse if rainwater floods the tunnel," said a spokesman for the Fourth Bureau of the China Civil Engineering Group Co. Ltd, the company that was building the subway.

Zhou Zhiping, company spokesman in charge of the compensation, said families of the dead would be compensated "according to state policies", which means a minimum of 200,000 yuan (about US$28,570) per person.

"An additional 150,000 yuan (US$21,428) per person will be paid by the insurance company," he said, adding that one of the victims' families had accepted the compensation scheme and agreed to have the body cremated.

The tragedy began when a 75-m section of the subway tunnel at the planned Xianghu Station in the suburbs of Hangzhou collapsed last Saturday afternoon.

Besides the 21 people who were dead or missing, 24 others were injured in the accident. A total of 11 construction workers are still in hospital.

Fang Delun, 45, said he remembered the "loud bangs of steel bars hitting one another" and "walls on both sides fell down like a waterfall" before he was knocked out. The construction worker from the central Hubei Province was carried to safety by his co-workers.

Cao Songbai, another survivor, kept slapping himself on the face in his hospital bed, grieving over the loss of his 29-year-old son. The father and son worked at the same construction site.

The State Council Work Safety Committee said in a report issued on Wednesday that inadequate local government surveillance and poor construction safety management were to blame for the accident.

In response on Thursday, the Zhejiang provincial work safety committee launched a safety examination at major construction projects across the province.

As of Saturday, nearly all Chinese cities where subways are being constructed have launched safety checks.