- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

HANOI (AP) — A section of a bridge under construction in southern Vietnam collapsed yesterday, killing at least 52 workers and injuring 97 others, officials said.

The bridge was being built across the Hau River, a branch of the Mekong River, in the southern city of Can Tho. It is part of a heavily used route linking the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City.

The collapsed section was more than 98 feet tall and was situated above land on the river bank in Vinh Long province, said Vo Thanh Tong, chairman of the Can Tho people’s committee. The four-lane bridge was not yet open to traffic.

Images broadcast on Vietnamese television showed mounds of twisted steel and cables shrouded in dust and smoke. Dozens of workers in yellow helmets rushed about the wreckage, some carrying stretchers with bloody victims.

At least 52 persons were dead and 97 were injured, said Le Van Ut, the vice chief of police in Vinh Long province. The exact number of missing was unknown, but officials said at least 200 persons were working on the 328-foot-long section when it buckled at about 8 a.m.

Local hospitals were overwhelmed and had called in 20 surgeons from Ho Chi Minh City to help.

The 1.7-mile bridge was started in 2004 and expected to be finished next year. It was to be the largest suspension bridge in Vietnam and would greatly speed the trip across the river, which thousands now make daily by ferry.

Officials were still investigating the cause of the accident. Concrete had been poured into the collapsed section just one day earlier, on Tuesday. The bracing supporting it had apparently weakened, said Pham Van Dau, chairman of the Vinh Long people’s committee.

Japan provided a $218 million loan to finance the project, enough to cover 85 percent of the cost, said Yoshifumi Omura, of the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation in Hanoi. The Vietnamese government provided the rest of the funding.

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