Worker killed, 14 injured in bridge project accident
Construction on site of Pearl River estuary link is halted and inquiry is launched after 14 more are injured by accident inside giant steel pipe
Clifford Lo, Jennifer Ngo and Ada Lee
One worker died and 14 were injured when a platform collapsed yesterday during reclamation for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project near Chek Lap Kok airport
Work was halted on the site and would resume only when it was safe to do so, Director of Highways Peter Lau Ka-keung said.
The accident happened when about 20 workers were on the second of three work platforms inside a 31-metre-wide steel caisson, a large pipe used for foundations in bridges, at 10.30am.
Initial information indicated the work platform that collapsed suddenly dropped two metres.
An injured worker, 29-year-old Chiu Long, said all eight metal chains holding up the moveable platform broke.
Chiu heard a loud boom and the middle platform collapsed, and the workers fell down with it. "After falling, I immediately crawled away from the falling boulders which could have crushed me," he said.
"Then I looked around and spotted four workers, who seemed to be seriously wounded.
"One of them was bleeding a lot, and I was afraid he was no more."
Chiu said that normally there would be five to six people working on the middle platform.
But he said the machinery supposed to move the centre platform up and down was broken yesterday, so extra workers had to pull it by hand. Chiu, who had worked at the site for only 10 days, injured his right leg.
The Fire Services Department said 15 injured workers, aged 22 to 41, were ferried to a pier in Tung Chung on three boats owned by the contractor, the China Harbour Engineering Company.
They were taken to Princess Margaret Hospital in Kwai Chung, Yan Chai Hospital in Tsuen Wan and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei.
Two workers were in a critical condition and one of them, Tam Chung-pong, 58, died later in Princess Margaret Hospital. The other was later listed as serious.
Highways director Lau refused to say whether the accident would delay the completion of the massive bridge across the Pearl River estuary.
"The safety of site workers is our biggest concern," he said.
The Labour Department said a site investigation had begun and that it had issued a suspension notice to the contractor.
It said the notice would be lifted only when it was convinced that measures had been taken to improve safety at the site.
Construction work began at the site, about half a nautical mile east of the airport, last December after a year's delay because of a legal challenge.
Workers are carrying out reclamation for the construction of an artificial island that will house a border checkpoint for the bridge, due to be completed in 2016.
Lau said the workers were wearing safety harnesses when the accident happened.
The Highways Department is now assisting the investigation by the Labour Department, which expressed its condolences to the dead worker's family.
The 150-hectare artificial island, which is expected to cost HK$30 billion, is one of two in the project. The other structures are a 22.85-kilometre bridge, a 6.75-kilometre tunnel and a 12-kilometre link road.
The bridge project is designed to be a major artery for cargo and passengers between the southwestern provinces and Hong Kong. After approval was granted by the central government in 2008, construction began in Zhuhai and Macau in 2009.
The Highways Department has told the contractor to employ extra workers and bring in more machines to finish the project as soon as possible.