Design of collapsed bridge defended

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2007, 12:00am

Experts blame sand barge for cave-in


Bridge experts have rejected claims that the collapse of Foshan's Jiujiang Bridge last week was linked to poor design.


Guangdong Transport Department deputy director Chen Guanxiong said yesterday a technical evaluation group studying the collapse concluded on Tuesday that it was the result of a sand barge accidentally hitting a bridge support outside the two designated navigation channels.


The bridge had been safe before the accident, Mr Chen said.


The 1,590-tonne barge, carrying about 2,000 tonnes of sand, hit a bridge pier at 5am on Friday.


The collision brought down a section of the bridge about 200 metres long, which submerged most of the vessel. At least four vehicles and nine people plunged into the river.


Mr Chen said the bridge supports on either side of the navigation channels were designed to withstand a 1,200-tonne impact, while non-navigation channel openings could withstand only a 40-tonne hit.


Guangdong party secretary Zhang Dejiang said the technical group comprised 12 bridge experts, seven of whom were from Beijing and Shanghai.


Mr Chen said the Guangdong transport department had launched a province-wide evaluation of bridge safety following the collapse.


Three bridges in Foshan - the Gaoming Sanzhou Bridge, the Shunde Longzhou Road Dawan Bridge and the Jiangcun Bridge - had been partly closed because of safety concerns.


He said the department was focusing on bridges connected to expressways and national highways, which had huge traffic flows.


'We are worrying about two things - overloaded trucks and excessive dredging of river sand [near the bridges], which might seriously affect the bridges' condition,' he said.


But Mr Chen said sand dredging was not the cause of the Jiujiang Bridge failure.


Tongji University professor Yao Lingsen said two piers in addition to the three that collapsed on Friday would need to be removed when the bridge was rebuilt.


Professor Yao said the failure of the three collapsed piers, numbered 23, 24 and 25, affected two neighbouring ones.


'Numbers 26 and 27 are cracked and I think they cannot be retained,' he said. 'Meanwhile, we need to clear away the sections lying in the river.'


Professor Chen said removing the tonnes of debris from the 200-metre submerged section of the bridge would be a tough task.


Guangdong Waterways Bureau released a report this week saying more than 80 per cent of bridges in Zhuhai lacked standard navigation signs, making it more likely that ships might accidentally hit the supports.


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