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Five detained over Henan bridge collapse

6 February 2013
Police investigating the collapse of a bridge in China’s Henan province last Friday have discovered that the truck carrying the fireworks was not licensed to carry dangerous cargo and that the fireworks were falsely declared as general cargo. Wang Dexue, deputy director of the State Administration for Work Safety, called it ‘a case of illegal production and illegal transport’.

Ten people have so far been confirmed dead and 11 injured. The police have arrested four suspects involved in supplying and transporting the fireworks, in addition to the owner of the cargo.

The truck, registered in Hebei province, was carrying more than 600 sacks of fireworks from a factory in Pucheng county, Shanxi province, about290km from the accident site. Police confirmed that the factory didn’t have a licence to produce the fireworks and that its trucking company, based in Shijiazhuang, the capital city of Hebei province, didn’t dispatch a special DG truck with trained drivers.

At 9:03am on a foggy 1 February after a journey of three hours and 40 minutes from Shanxi, the truck reached Yichang Bridge on the Lianhuo expressway. This is a major, 4,395km road that links Lianyungang, Jiangsu province on the east coast with Huoerguosi, Xinjiang autonomous region, in the west.

Yichang Bridge, built in 2001, has a simple structure where two piers are firmly attached to the cement frame they support. The explosion, most likely caused by heat resulting from friction when the truck went over a bumpy road, happened near one of the piers, damaging the cement structure, according to Mr Wang. The blast detached the cement structure from the pier and the impact caused the other pier to fall to the ground.

Bridge expert Li Qian, who is also chief engineer of Henan province transport authority, said that there was no quality problem with the bridge and that regular checks are carried out on bridges that are part of the national express network.

Another bridge expert, Professor Tan Jianling from Yellow River Water Technology Institute, said that Chinese bridges are not built to withstand explosions. The current building standards require bridges to withstand floods and earthquakes, but not explosions. “The incidence of explosions is very low, but the cost of building bridges to withstand explosions would be extremely high,” he was quoted as saying.

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