Hopes fade for trapped workers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 March, 2007, 12:00am

Efforts to rescue six workers trapped for more than 24 hours in a Beijing subway construction site seemed doomed to fail yesterday, with state media saying that the chances of them still being alive were slim.

The accident occurred at about 9.30am on Wednesday when more than 20 square metres of land collapsed at a construction site along the Beijing subway's No10 line. It is an integral part of the city's infrastructure development in preparation for next year's Olympic Games, according to Zhang Nongke , a spokesman for the Beijing Construction Committee.

Mr Zhang said last night that it was not known if the workers, trapped in an underground station on the northwestern corner of Beijing's third ring road in Haidian district, were still alive. Rescuers were still searching for them at 7pm.

However, the China News Service quoted an anonymous source as saying the body of a worker was recovered last night.

Xinhua quoted an unnamed expert as saying that it was unlikely that the workers were still alive. Mr Zhang said families of the workers had been contacted and they were on the way to Beijing.

Concerns have been expressed about the construction company's handling of the collapse, with media reports saying Beijing police were not notified until police in Henan province - where one of the trapped workers came from - contacted them seven hours later.

Henan police were told of the accident after one of the workers called the family of a trapped colleague in the province. Police in Henan informed their Beijing counterparts around 5pm on Wednesday, media reports said.

Mr Zhang said the company failed to inform authorities in time when the accident happened, and that a construction team leader was being held by police.

The state-owned China Railway 12th Bureau Group is in charge of the project, while its workers were hired by a company from Sichuan.

State Administration of Work Safety director Li Yizhong and Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan were at the scene to lead the rescue operation.

Calls to China Railway 12th Bureau Group and Haidian police station went unanswered yesterday.