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13 arrested after 74 killed in construction site scaffolding collapse

Published 25/11/2016

Rescues workers look for survivors after China's latest construction site disaster (Xinhua News Agency/AP)
Rescues workers look for survivors after China's latest construction site disaster (Xinhua News Agency/AP)

Thirteen people have been arrested after scaffolding collapsed at a power plant construction site in eastern China, killing 74 workers.

Most of the victims had been building the interior concrete wall of a massive circular cooling tower 230ft (70m) in the air when the accident happened in the city of Fengcheng in Jiangxi province on Wednesday morning.

The accident turned the site, which is the size of a football field, into a mangled heap of steel bars, concrete and wooden planks.

The investigation is focusing on a major engineering firm, Hebei Yineng, which has taken on multiple high-profile power plant projects and has a history of workplace fatalities.

State media reports said the accident occurred during a change of work shifts, possibly accounting for the high death toll.

About 500 rescue workers, including paramilitary police officers, dug through the debris with their hands, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

President Xi Jinping urged local governments to learn from the incident and hold those responsible accountable. He said that, in the wake of recent work accidents, China's cabinet should carry out thorough inspections of work sites to reduce risks.

China has suffered several major work-safety accidents in recent years blamed on weak regulatory oversight, systemic corruption and pressure to boost production amid a slowing economy.

The scaffolding accident happened on the day Yang Dongliang, a former head of the state administration of work safety, stood trial in a Beijing court for allegedly accepting £3.5 million in bribes between 2002 and last year, as he rose through the ranks as an official in Tianjin before joining the regulatory agency.

Yang was sacked in August 2015 in connection with a massive explosion at an illegal chemical warehouse in the northern port of Tianjin that killed 173 people, most of them firefighters and police officers. The head of a logistics company was given a suspended death sentence over the case.

Earlier this month, 33 miners were killed in a gas explosion at a coal mine in Chongqing in China's south-west. In 2014, a dust explosion at a metal production workshop killed 146 people.

Other accidents blamed on lax safety standards in recent years have also caused significant fatalities.

In June 2015, 442 people died in the capsize on the Yangtze River of a modified cruise ship blamed on poor decisions made by the captain and crew, while 81 people were killed in December when an enormous, man-made mountain of soil and waste collapsed on nearly three dozen buildings in the southern manufacturing centre of Shenzhen.

Construction of the 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant at the centre of Thursday's accident began in Fengcheng in late 2015 and was expected to be finished in November 2017.

AP

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