Shipyard Accident Kills 22

Tuesday, July 17, 2001
At least 22 people were crushed to death when a huge, brand-new crane toppled over in a Shanghai shipyard, the latest in a string of deadly accidents that highlight China's woeful safety standards. Xinhua said 11 people were still pinned under the wreckage of the 600-ton gantry crane and there was little hope of getting them out alive. Three people were seriously injured and hospital doctors told Reuters their chances of survival were slim. Employees at the Hudong China Shipbuilding plant in the port city's Pudong district said the crane collapsed on a group of workers and engineers on Tuesday morning. With ribbons and flags still attached from a ceremony on Monday before the enormous crane was put into operation, it lay crumpled on its side amid rusty iron support pillars. The cause of the accident was not immediately known. People living in the shipyard workers quarters 100 meters (yards) away said the crane toppled around 8 a.m. (midnight GMT). Safety standards in China have plunged to such depths the issue has become one of the biggest threats to the credibility of the government. Public anger is rising along with the death toll from a series of fires, explosions and building collapses. In an attempt to control the bad news, and limit political damage, new rules issued last month said only Xinhua could report on accidents and natural disasters. They were widely ignored. Accidents are often linked to corruption and negligence and are widely seen as evidence that government at all levels has lost touch with the concerns of ordinary Chinese. After a blast earlier this year killed at least 42 people in an east China school, most of them children, Premier Zhu Rongji apologized to the nation and said provincial leaders would be held personally responsible for future lapses. But there has been no let-up in the carnage. Last week, part of an oil drilling control platform riding on a flatbed train carriage worked its way loose and cut a swathe of destruction along a 16 km (10-mile) stretch of track. At least 22 people were killed and 15 injured as a metal arm jutting from the speeding train scythed down electricity poles and hoardings. - (Reuters)
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