China bridge collapse death toll rises to 36, search continues

The death toll rose to 36 on Wednesday after a road bridge collapsed in central China, as rescuers continued to search debris for bridge for dozens of missing people, the government said.

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The Monday collapse in the southern town of Fenghuang rekindled concerns about rushed, shoddy building amid China's torrid economic expansion.

Specially trained dogs and bulldozers sifted through mounds of toppled concrete in a bid to find an estimated 30 people missing. Seven bodies were found early Wednesday, said Li Ping, a spokesman for the Xiangxi prefecture that includes Fenghuang. He said he did not know how many people were still unaccounted for.

China's State Councilor Hua Jianmian visited the site late Tuesday and urged construction sites all over the country to tighten safety management and check potential risks, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Witnesses described hearing a rumble and seeing stones fall from the structure Monday afternoon after construction workers removed the supportive frame from the 42-meter-high, 268-meter-long (140-foot-high, 880-foot-long) vehicle and pedestrian bridge across the Tuo River.

Rescuers managed to save 86 people, including 22 who were injured, many from the 123 workers on the site at the time of the collapse, Xinhua said.

Police detained two officials from the builder, the state-owned Hunan Road and Bridge Construction Co., Xinhua said, even as the Work Safety Administration of Hunan province, where Fenghuang is located, said the accident's cause was under investigation.

Nong Xiaozhong, one of two survivors in a 12-man construction team working under the bridge, said he and his fellow workers worried the bridge's stone arches were too large and that the mortar was not dry enough to remove the scaffolding.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova