Bridge accident captain arrested

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 June, 2007, 12:00am

Guangdong authorities yesterday detained the captain and five crew members of a sand barge that struck a bridge on the Xijiang, or West River, on Friday.

Guangdong Marine Safety Administration (MSA) police said that Shi Guide , the boat's captain, and the five others had been arrested over the accident which caused a 200-metre section of Jiujiang Bridge to collapse.

At least four vehicles plunged into the river during the accident and at least nine people are still missing.

The MSA said a body was found downstream yesterday afternoon but it could not yet confirm if it was one of the missing people.

'We have asked relatives to identify the corpse,' said Xu Fan , an MSA officer.

The 1,590-tonne boat carrying about 2,000 tonnes of sand illegally steamed into the main channel of the river and struck one of the bridge's supports around 5.15am on Friday, a government statement said late that night.

Most of the vessel was submerged under the collapsed sections, its stern forced out of the water.

Mr Xu said the current had stopped salvage teams from trying to recover the vehicles. 'The current is too strong to search for the exact location of the cars,' he said.

Nine divers from Chongqing and Wuhan have arrived to help the recovery, he added.

Meanwhile, the Foshan government is planning to reopen Jiujiang's standby military port that has been out of commission for 20 years to help with the traffic jams caused by the collapse of the bridge.

'We sent two ferryboats from Zhaoqing to Jiujiang last Friday,' said a Guangdong road bureau official. 'The ferryboats can carry cars but I heard that the Foshan government will only use them for motorcycles and people.'

The two ferries and a third from Nanhai will be able to transport 3,000 motorcycles a day, Xinhua reported, the same capacity as the collapsed bridge.

Figures provided by the owner of Jiujiang Bridge, Guangdong Expressway Development Co, showed that 6.44 million vehicles used the bridge last year.

Guangdong's communication department said that it would take about six months to repair the damage to the bridge.

The bridge was built in 1988. It forms part of the transport link connecting Foshan and Jiangmen .