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Weather conditions baffle search efforts after bridge collapse

By Xinhua 

Guangzhou : Unfavorable weather and river conditions have impeded efforts to search for people who fell into a river in Guangdong Province after a bridge collapsed, a maritime official said on Saturday.

    The southern China province is in the flooding season and water level has risen greatly, said Mo Qi, deputy director with the Guangdong Maritime Bureau.

    Visibility on the torrential Xijiang River, over which lies the Jiujiang Bridge that partially collapsed after a boat rammed into it early Friday, is low, making it hard for divers and rescuers to search for the nine people who are thought to have fallen into the water, Mo said.

    It is difficult for divers to reach the 36-meter-deep bottom of the river or to determine the location of the targets when water flows fast, according to Huang Yaxuan, another official with the bureau.

    After 16 hours of search, a number of targets have been detected underwater around the site of the collapse with the arrival of more advanced sonar equipment and ships to reinforce the operation.

    Surveillance videos showed seven people were riding in four cars and two workers were on the bridge at the time of the collapse.

    A boat loaded with sand deviated from the main channel and hit the base of the bridge, causing 200 meters of the 1,600-meter-long bridge to collapse.

    Part of the collapsed bridge fell onto the bow of the boat and struck it. All 10 crew members were rescued, and two slightly injured have left hospital.

    Vice premier Zeng Peiyan and some other senior officials have asked relative departments to reinforce search and rescue efforts, regulate local traffic, and take measures to prevent new accidents.

    A working team headed by Xu Zuyuan, deputy minister of communications, and Liang Jiakun, deputy head of the State Administration of Work Safety, is heading to the site of the accident to supervise the rescue operation.