Ship hits brige, four crewmen trapped

2008-03-27 02:11:58 Xinhua English

An empty cargo vessel (pictured) hits a bridge under construction near the eastern seaport of Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, March 27, 2008. Four crew members remain missing and 16 have been rescued so far. [Xinhua]

A photo of a container ship after it hit Jintang Bridge in Ningbo, East China's Zhejiang Province, March 27, 2008. A section of the bridge, which is under construction, fell onto the ship and four crewmen were trapped inside a cabin. Rescue work is underway. [chsphoto]

HANGZHOU, March 27 (Xinhua) -- China's maritime search and rescue authority said on Thursday that an empty cargo vessel hit abridge under construction near the eastern seaport of Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, leaving four crew members missing.

The vessel collided with part of the lower span of the Jintang Bridge in Ningbo at 1:15 a.m., causing the collapse of a 60-meter-long section that fell onto the ship, said Chi Fangqing, an official with the Zhejiang Maritime Bureau.

Sixteen of the 20 crew on board had been rescued by 7 a.m. but rescuers were still searching for the four missing.

Officials speculated that the missing crew members might have been trapped in the cabin by the collapsed section weighing about 3,000 tons.

The ship, known by the code Qinfeng 128, has a designed capacity of 7,000 tons.

More than 10 salvage ships were trying to lift the collapsed part of the bridge and pull the damaged cargo ship out.

Nobody was working on the bridge at the time, and there were no passerbys at the site since the bridge had not opened to traffic, according to the construction headquarters.

Maritime officials said that the ship was en route from Ningbo port to points north but might have taken the wrong route and struck the lower arch of the bridge.

The Ministry of Communications has set up a team to investigate the cause of the accident.

The local authority has cordoned off the site of the accident and banned all ship movements.

Construction of the 21-kilometer bridge began in April 2006 and is set for completion in 2009, involving 7.7 billion yuan (nearly 1.1 billion U.S. dollars) in investment.

The bridge will connect Zhenhai city in Ningbo and Jintang Island in Zhoushan, spanning the Huibie area of the East China sea.

In a similar accident last June, nine people were killed after a cargo vessel hit a section of the 1,600-meter Jiujiang bridge in Guangdong Province, causing part of the bridge spanning the Xijiang River to collapse.