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Crime & Corruption

Collapse of new bridge underscores worries about China infrastructure


The section of the Yangmingtan Bridge that collapsed

One of the longest bridges in northern China collapsed on Friday, just nine months after it opened, setting off a storm of criticism from Chinese Internet users and underscoring questions about the quality of construction in the country’s rapid expansion of its infrastructure.

A nearly 330-foot-long section of a ramp of the eight-lane Yangmingtan Bridge in the city of Harbin dropped 100 feet to the ground. Four trucks plummeted with it, resulting in three deaths and five injuries.

The 9.6-mile bridge is one of three built over the Songhua River in that area in the past four years. China’s economic stimulus program in 2009 and 2010 helped the country avoid most of the effects of the global economic downturn, but involved incurring heavy debt to pay for the rapid construction of new bridges, highways and high-speed rail lines all over the country.

Questions about the materials used during the construction and whether the projects were properly engineered have been the subject of national debate ever since a high-speed train ploughed into the back of a stopped train on the same track on July 23 last year in the eastern city of Wenzhou. The crash killed 40 people and injured 191; a subsequent investigation blamed in particular flaws in the design of the signalling equipment.

Photographs on Chinese Web sites on Friday appeared to show that the collapsed section of the Yangmingtan Bridge’s ramp had fallen on land, not in the river.

According to the official Xinhua news agency, the Yangmingtan Bridge was the sixth major bridge in China to collapse since July 2011. Chinese officials have tended to blame overloaded trucks for the collapses, and did so again on Friday.

Many in China have attributed the recent spate of bridge collapses to corruption, and online reaction to the latest collapse was scathing.

“Corrupt officials who do not die just continue to cause disaster after disaster,” said one post on Friday on Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging service similar to Twitter.

Another Internet user expressed hope “that the government will put heavy emphasis on this and investigate to find out the real truth, and give both the dead and the living some justice!” A third user was more laconic, remarking, “Tofu engineering work leads to a tofu bridge.”

Chinese news media reported that the bridge had cost 1.88 billion renminbi, or almost $300 million.

New York Times
 
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About Craig Hill

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