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An excavator lies at the bottom of a deep shaft after breaking free from the crane that was lowering it at a Hong Kong highway construction site. Photo: Handout

Excavator breaks loose from crane, plunges down giant shaft at Hong Kong highway construction site

  • Spokesman says no one injured in the incident, which took place on a section of the new 4.7km Central Kowloon Route located in Ho Man Tin
  • The HK$42.4 billion project is designed to alleviate traffic congestion on existing east-west roads across Kowloon

Hong Kong authorities are investigating after an excavator plunged down a giant shaft as it was being lifted onto a Highways Department construction site on Wednesday evening.

The incident, captured in a viral video, took place in Ho Man Tin at one of the sites for the new Central Kowloon Route, which includes a tunnel section about 3.9km long.

The footage shows the excavator being lifted by a tower crane, then slowly turning upside down before breaking free of its rigging and tumbling down the shaft. Several workers near the shaft can be seen running away as it happens.

A spokesman for the Highways Department said no one was injured in the incident and work at the site, which is overseen by contractor Bouygues Construction, had been temporarily suspended. The department also said it would conduct an investigation with the Labour Department.

“The Highways Department is very concerned about the incident … We will conduct an investigation with the Labour Department to identify the cause of the incident and take improvement measures,” the spokesman said.

Jason Poon Chuk-hung, a construction firm owner who runs the public affairs concern group Chinat Monitor, described the incident as rare and a combination of “low-level errors”.

He said sources told him that the wire rope slings were anchored in the wrong position, resulting in the excavator breaking away from the cables and tumbling down the shaft, which serves as a ventilation passageway connecting to the end of the tunnel.

A look down the large ventilation shaft that an excavator fell to the bottom of on Wednesday evening in Hong Kong. Photo: Handout

“This was a multiplicity of low-level errors at every step … Normally, there must be a site supervisor to oversee the work procedures and ensure every step is safe and correct before operating the crane,” he said.

Poon said it appeared that the banksman, a worker who supervises the use of vehicles and heavy machinery on site, was operating the crane in the absence of the site supervisor.

He said the project’s consultant – a joint venture of Arup and Mott MacDonald – should give an account to the authorities.

The Post has contacted Arup for comment.

The location is one of the sites for the Central Kowloon Route – a 4.7km long, dual three-lane trunk road connecting the West Kowloon reclamation and the proposed Kai Tak Development.

According to the department’s website, the HK$42.4 billion (US$5.5 billion) project, designed to relieve traffic congestion on the existing east-west roads across Central Kowloon, is expected to be completed in 2025.