All but three of 70 workers on site killed in construction disaster at Chinese power station

Collapse of scaffold platform in Jiangxi province supporting building cranes leaves 67 dead

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 November, 2016, 1:14pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 November, 2016, 12:36pm

A construction disaster killed all but three of 70 workers on the site of a new power station in eastern China on Thursday.

The accident, in Yichun, Jiangxi province, occurred when a scaffolding platform supporting cranes collapsed inside a cooling tower, the central government said on its website.

Sixty-seven workers were killed and two survivors were taken to hospital.

Rescuers pulled one worker from the debris, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

About 500 rescue workers, ­including paramilitary police officers, were shown by the broadcaster digging through the debris with their hands.

The CCTV report also showed debris strewn across the floor of the cavernous, 165-metre-high concrete cooling tower, in the middle of which stood an unfinished structure.

The cause of the accident was not clear.

A work unit would be set up to assist family members of the ­victims, Jiangxi’s deputy governor, Li Yihuang, said.

He also pledged to investigate the cause of the accident.

“All departments in the province must learn from this accident, conduct a systematic check and address all the safety risks,” Li said.

The third-phase extension project at the Fengcheng Power Station started in July last year.

Jiangxi province has plans to increase its power capacity to 30GW from last year’s level of only 16 GW.

The planned extension included two one-gigawatt generation units, according to the Jiangxi Development and Reform Commission. The first unit was scheduled to start operating in November of next year, and the second unit was to be finished in 2018.

Shenzhen-listed Jiangxi Ganneng had invested about 7.7 billion yuan (HK$8.9 billion) into the power station project, the company announced last year.

On September 13, the company launched a campaign called Work Hard Together for 100 Days, urging workers at the station to speed up construction while heeding safety rules.

Local governments have yet to follow Beijing’s call to slow down the expansion of coal-fired power plants in its effort to reduce overcapacity and tackle environmental problems.

Construction accidents are frequent occurrences in China, sparking criticism that the central and local governments are ignoring safety violations in their haste to complete projects.

On October 31, 33 miners died after a gas explosion at a coal mine in Chongqing. Three workers in the northern city of Shenyang, Liaoning province, died on October 19 after a road collapsed over a subway station under construction.

A series of major industrial accidents across the nation in recent months have also been blamed on corruption, disregard for safety and pressure to boost production amid a slowing economy.

The head of a logistics company was recently handed a suspended death sentence over the massive explosion at an illegal chemical warehouse in Tianjin last year that killed 173 people, most of them firefighters and police officers.

In Shenzhen, 81 people were killed in December when a man-made mountain of soil and building waste collapsed on nearly three dozen buildings housing workers.