Schoolboys drown swimming home

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 June, 2007, 12:00am

Two teenage brothers in Heyuan, Guangdong, drowned while trying to swim home from school on Friday, a year after a new bridge - the only link between the school and their village - collapsed.

Juxing villagers found the body of 18-year-old Zeng Haisheng on Sunday and were continuing to search for the body of Zeng Desheng , 17, the Southern Metropolis News reported yesterday.

Zeng Yunkan , deputy head of the Yangming No3 Middle School where the brothers studied, was quoted as saying: 'The tragedy would not have happened if there had been a bridge.'

The 400,000-yuan bridge collapsed last July, just two months after it was completed. Villagers described it yesterday as doufuzha - meaning made of tofu - and an example of poor-quality construction.

Villagers who helped build the bridge said its foundations were rock piles rather than concrete. According to the villagers, there was almost no mortar holding the rocks in place and their complaints to the village party committee about the quality of construction went unanswered, the report said.

Yangming township deputy party secretary Yuan Yongzhi said the deaths were an accident unrelated to the bridge's collapse.

'The two brothers had swum across the river several times,' Mr Yuan said. 'Maybe this time they got a cramp in the water.'

Mr Yuan said the town administration and the village committee had no idea about the quality of the bridge because that was a 'technical thing'.

The bridge collapsed last year before community authorities could sign off on it, but Mr Yuan said the work safety department had not been sent to investigate until a few days ago.

'More than 10 bridges were washed away by the flood last year and nobody thought it was a quality problem before [last week],' he said.

He said the village had built a temporary timber bridge but it had been washed away by torrential rain last week.