Monday August 27, 2012
China’s collapsing bridges a worrying situation
MADE IN CHINA BY CHOW HOW BAN
CHINA builds over a hundred bridges every year. The nation has earned recognition as perhaps one of the world’s most efficient infrastructure builders.
Look at the Hangzhou Bay Bridge, Lupu Bridge and Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge. They have become China’s landmark modern bridges.
But, the collapse of a ramp on the Third Ring Road about 3.5km from the Yangmingtan Bridge in Heilongjiang province’s Harbin city last Friday has yet again tainted China’s image following a dozen similar incidents in recent years.
The ramp tilted to one side before crashing onto the ground. The collapse caused four trucks to fall 30m from the ramp, killing three people and injuring six.
Built at a cost of 1.88 billion yuan (RM902mil) by China Railway First Group Co Ltd and China Railway 13th Bureau Group Co Ltd, the 15.42km-long Yangmingtan bridge across the Songhua River has been opened to traffic for only 10 months.
The bridge is touted to be the longest in northern China.
Soon after the deadly collapse, the State Administration of Work Safety spokesman Huang Yi said that for a bridge to collapse after less than a year in operation, there must be a problem.
On Saturday, Harbin city government secretary-general Huang Yusheng said the ramp was not part of the Yangmingtan bridge project and the bridge was found to be safe.
He denied that the project management team for the ramp project was disbanded and the contractors were nowhere to be found.
He said the road authorities would submit a list of responsible parties and any related information to an investigation committee set up by the government to determine the cause of the incident.
In its editorial, Yangcheng Evening News questioned why the State Administration of Work Safety did not intervene as the participation of a higher authority would make the investigation fairer and more credible.
Many incidents of bridge cracking and collapse happened in the past, but none of them received as much attention as this bridge in Harbin.
Perhaps the reason is that this bridge is short-lived and cost too much money to build, the newspaper said.
Beijing News said according to official records, the bridge project kicked off in 2009 and took only 18 months to complete, a feat which earned praises.
The daily said it was impossible for the ramp to collapse suddenly as the structure could have developed cracks or other defects before the incident.
But, why didn’t the road authorities discover such defects during their daily maintenance of the bridge and carry out preventive measures, it asked.
Barely three weeks ago, the Hedong Bridge in Guangchang county in Jiangxi province crashed, killing two people.
Last July, the Baihe Bridge in Huairou district in Beijing was crushed as a result of truck overloading.
Around the same time, a similar fate happened to Gongguan Bridge in Fujian province’s Wuyishan city and another section of a bridge in Zhejiang province’s Hangzhou.
The incident in Wuyishan caused a death and injured 22 people while a truck driver was hurt in the bridge crash in Hangzhou.
In June 2010, a truck and a taxi fell from the collapsed Jinjiang Bridge in Wusong, Jilin province.
In 2009, another major bridge collapse happened at Zhuzhou city in Hunan province which saw a death toll of nine and left 16 people injured.
In 2007, a total of 64 people were killed in the tragedy on a bridge across the Tixituo River in Fenghuang county in Hunan. Four officials involved were on trial last week for bribery and negligence.
The spate of incidents certainly warrants a thorough check on contractors to ensure the construction of roads and bridges are carried out to the best standards.