May 22, 2024

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Death toll in China highway collapse rises to 48

Death toll in China highway collapse rises to 48

Rescuers were working at the scene of a highway collapse in southern China that killed 48 people, state media said in a new report Thursday.

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Heavy rains caused a section of the road from Miejo City to Tabu County to collapse at around 2:10 a.m. (1810 GMT Tuesday) on Wednesday. Heavier than normal for this time of year, just before the monsoon, experts believe the rains are linked to climate change.

The vehicles were thrown into a nearly 18-metre ditch on the tarmac and rolled down a steep slope.

“At a press conference in Meizhou, Guangdong, reporters learned that 48 people were killed in a highway collapse,” the agency's official China News reported Thursday afternoon, while the death toll stood at 36 in the morning.

“Additionally, the DNA of three people is being compared and confirmed,” Sine Novelle pointed out, without specifying whether these three victims were included in the 48 dead.

Thirty people were injured, but their lives were not threatened, the same source said.

Footage from the state broadcaster's CCTV showed excavators digging into the muddy hillside beneath the collapsed road. Nearby, a crane lifted and destroyed vehicles on a truck, under the eyes of people behind a security ring.

President Xi Jinping ordered officials to “step up efforts to rescue and treat the injured.”

500 people were sent to the spot for rescue operations.

The provincial government “mobilized special elite forces and went out to carry out search and rescue operations,” Xinhua reported.

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“Geological Disaster”

State media called the road collapse a “natural geological disaster” as a result of “continuous heavy rains” that have lashed the densely populated industrial province in recent weeks, causing severe flooding and landslides.

Yin Jiji, head of hydrology forecasting at China's Ministry of Water Resources, pointed out last month that “extensive climate change” is increasing the likelihood of heavy rains that normally only occur in the summer months.

Parts of China's manufacturing hub of central and eastern Guangdong have received 600 millimeters of rain in the past ten days, three times the amount normally expected for this time of year.

Up to 120 millimeters of additional rain is expected in southwestern parts of the province on Thursday, with more rain expected in southern China until Sunday.

The weather bureau said these conditions “increase the risk of disasters, particularly geological disasters, which have a certain lag time”.

China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, but has pledged to reduce its emissions to zero by 2060.

Officials have urged people to plan their trips carefully during the May holiday, which runs until Sunday.

Last month, heavy rains in Guangdong caused flooding that killed four people and displaced more than 100,000 people.

Last week, a tornado killed five people as it passed through the metropolis of Canton, the provincial capital.