Sand barge brings down Xi River bridge
A sand barge struck a bridge over the Xi River between Heshan and the town of Jiujiang in Guangdong yesterday morning, bringing down a section of the structure at least 200 metres long.
Most of the vessel was submerged under the collapsed sections of the Jiujiang Bridge, forcing its stern out of the water.
'There were 10 crew members on the boat,' Nanhai district propaganda office spokesman Mai Shaoqiang said.
'Two had a few scrapes while the rest were fine.'
Mr Mai said the 1,590-tonne barge, carrying about 2,000 tonnes of sand, had illegally steamed into the main channel and struck a bridge support at about 5am.
Local media reported at least six vehicles had plunged into the river.
The Yangcheng Evening News said two road workers on the bridge when it was hit were missing, but Mr Mai said that had not been confirmed. 'We are using sonar to search for people and the vehicles that might be missing in the accident,' he said. 'We also sent divers down, but nothing has been found so far.'
Bridge experts and residents attributed the collapse partly to the excessive dredging of river sand in the past 10 to 20 years.
The 1,600-metre bridge was built in 1988 and forms part of the transport link connecting Foshan and Jiangmen . The Xi River is a major tributary of the Pearl River.
Fisherman Huang Shusheng , 56, said he was asleep on his boat a kilometre away when 'I heard a loud bang.'
Mr Huang said it was foggy on Thursday night so he decided not to go fishing.
'Maybe the boat hit the bridge because of the fog, but I didn't think it could damage the bridge that badly.'
He said the bases of the piers might no longer be stable after more than 20 years of sand mining.
'I am afraid the base must be empty by now,' he said.
Hong Kong's transport industry said the collapse would have little impact on transportation between Hong Kong and the mainland.
Additional reporting by Martin Wong