Harbin probe blames overloaded trucks, not bridge, for collapse

Harbin disaster nothing to do with bad design or construction, city says; others are sceptical

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2012, 3:20am

A Harbin city government investigation has blamed "severely overloaded" trucks - rather than design flaws or shoddy construction - for the deadly collapse of a ramp leading to a newly built suspension bridge last month.

The inquiry into the August 24 collapse found that the combined weight of four trucks travelling in the same lane exceeded the bridge's capacity and caused a 100-metre elevated ramp section to tip over in the capital of Heilongjiang province. Three died and five were injured.

A city-appointed panel said traffic police in Heilongjiang and neighbouring Jilin province should have prevented the incidents as the same trucks had been stopped for overloading in Jilin a day earlier. They were allowed to continue on after paying a fine, and were not made to offload excess cargo.

Traffic police found to have ignored the weight restrictions would be punished, the statement said.

The 15 kilometre Yangmingtan Bridge - hailed as the longest in northern China - was completed in November. The investigation found no quality flaws, based on expert opinions, including that of the National Centre for Quality Supervision and Testing of Building Engineering.

But one bridge safety expert cautioned that the findings glossed over a wider problem on the mainland in which safety standards are relaxed to help designers and builders save costs.

"We must… impose tougher requirements on new bridges," said Dan Danhui , a professor with Tongji University's Bridge Engineering Department .

"We should also take effective measures to reinforce existing bridges. If not, I am afraid that bridge collapses will continue to occur through out the country."

At least 18 bridges have collapsed on the mainland since 2007, causing 135 deaths, according to the State Administration of Work Safety. Most of the bridges had been in use for less than 15 years.

"The strength specified by the regulations can't meet the burden of our rapid economic development," Dan said.

"What was an extremely rare situation in earlier days, such as the case of Yangmingtan, has almost become a daily phenomenon."