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Death toll from China’s Guangdong highway collapse rises to 48 as President Xi Jinping orders maximum push to save lives


They said that in addition to the death toll, a further 30 people were injured and 23 vehicles were trapped, and they were continuing the search for bodies and injured people.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered local authorities to make an all-out effort to save lives and ensure “overall social stability”.

He ordered government officials to do everything possible to rescue and treat casualties at the scene, and to repair the damaged roads and restore traffic order as soon as possible, state news agency Xinhua reported on Thursday.

The president said authorities must inspect and deal with potential risks in a timely manner.

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Rescuers at the scene told Shanghai-based news outlet the rescue task was further complicated by persistent rain in Dabu and a large amount of debris and earth continuing to slide near the site and posing a risk for rescuers.

Meanwhile, there have been no public announcements from the authorities about the cause of the collapse, but a geotechnical engineer told domestic media the disaster may have been triggered by the impact of persistent heavy rain.

“The recent continuous downpour in the area washed away the soil on the surface and entered the crevices to generate water pressure, pushing the earth downwards,” an engineer surnamed Chen told Jiemian News.

“It may have been triggered by the poor drainage after prolonged rainfall, leading to the continuous deformation and expansion of the parts prone to cracks, ultimately leading to the collapse.”

The engineer also said an adequate monitoring and warning system was “not properly in place”, adding that such landslides could usually be spotted in the early stages and could be pre-empted.

At about 2.10am on May 1, a landslide occurred in the Chayang section of the Meizhou-Dalian Expressway in Meizhou City, Guangdong. Photo: Xinhua

Guangdong, a densely populated and province in Southern China, has been hit hard by heavy rain in recent weeks, causing severe flooding and landslides in some areas.

On Tuesday afternoon, the weather department in Dabu County had warned heavy and consistent rainstorms for the next day or so would bring with them a “high risk of geologic hazards” and warned people to guard against floods, mudslides and landslides.

Footage and pictures shared by local news outlets showed flames and smoke rising from the collapsed section of the road, with cars seen on fire on the slope. Several families of the victims were captured crying near the stricken highway and looking for signs of their loved ones.

On Wednesday evening, residents in Dabu country rushed to donate blood after hearing there was an urgent need.

The Meizhou-Dabu highway, which opened on New Year’s Eve 2014, cost 6 billion yuan (US$828 million) to build. The project was beset by technical difficulties because of the mountainous and steep terrain.

Local media reported in 2015 that several tunnels on the highway had been affected by landslides and water penetrating during the construction period.

In April last year, two sections of the highway collapsed because of consistent rainfall, but nobody was hurt, according to local media reports at the time. The area that collapsed on Wednesday is around 44km (27 miles) from last year’s damaged site.

According to Tianyancha, one of China’s biggest databases of corporate information, the highway’s management company has previously been the subject of lawsuits related to construction disputes, and subjected to court-enforced payments seven times amounting to nearly 17 million yuan.


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‘Everything is gone’: Chinese farmers face huge losses after widespread floods

Internet users have anger and frustration about the most recent incident, which occurred at the start of China’s five-day Labour Day holiday.

“This incident came like a bolt from the blue, is it only a force majeure natural disaster or the negligence of the construction company and regulatory departments?” a user wrote on the social media platform Weibo. “Not only do families of the deceased need to know what caused the collapse, the whole nation needs to be informed.”

“There was a problem last year due to the heavy rain, and it doesn’t seem to have got enough attention from the highway management side,” another Weibo user wrote.

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A search of a Chinese emergency authorities’ website showed five road incidents in the past decade were deemed “extremely serious accidents” – those involving 30 or more deaths and require the Ministry of Emergency Management to produce a report into the accident.


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