Death toll in construction site disaster at China power station rises to 74

Accident in Jiangxi province has led to most serious loss of life on mainland since Shenzhen landslide last year

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 November, 2016, 10:16am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 November, 2016, 11:32am

The number of people killed after scaffolding collapsed at a construction site in eastern China has risen to 74, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

The accident at a power station in Fengcheng in Jiangxi province was the most serious on the mainland since a landslide at a waste tip in Shenzhen buried buildings last year, killing 73 and with four officially still declared missing.

A scaffolding platform supporting cranes collapsed inside a cooling tower at the construction site, the central government said on its website.

Two people were also seriously injured in the accident on Thursday morning.

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About 500 rescue workers, ­including paramilitary police officers, were shown on state television digging through the debris with their hands on Thursday.

A CCTV report also showed debris strewn across the floor of the cavernous, 165-metre-high concrete cooling tower.

The cause of the accident is 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, 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 pollution.

Construction accidents happen frequently 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.

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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.