Fri, November 21, 2008
China > Mainland > East China subway tunnel collapse

Contractor rapped for Hangzhou tunnel collapse

2008-11-20 01:27:35 GMT2008-11-20 09:27:35 (Beijing Time)  China Daily

Rescuers look for ways to shift debris to find people still trapped at the site of a collapsed subway tunnel in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province November 18, 2008. [Agencies]

HANGZHOU: The State safety watchdog has found the contractor's management was poor and the local government's supervision lax during an investigation into the subway tunnel collapse on Saturday.

The accident in Hangzhou killed eight people and left 13 trapped under tons of debris in a huge crater.

"Not implementing proper safety measures, not attending to hidden problems decisively, properly and on time, poor safety training, substandard labor management, messy on-site control and the local government's lax supervision" have been found, a circular posted on the State Administration of Work Safety website said.

The China Railway Construction Co (CRCC) is the contracted builder for the subway.

Though efforts are on to rescue the 13 people still trapped, the chances of any one of them still being alive are slim.

The workers who survived the accident or were rescued, too, said safety measures were very poor.

"The only safety measure were the helmets we wore," Zhu Juzhong, 56, said. By any safety standard, the company's management "is bad", the Sichuan native said.

Others complained that they had not received any pre-work safety training.

Song Changfa, who survived the accident but broke his leg, said some of his fellow villagers had never worked at a construction site before but still did not get any training.

The management continued with the work, instead of finding the cause of the cracks around the site that first appeared more than a month ago, local residents said.

Fu Meizhen, a resident of the area, said cracks 2-3-cm wide and 1-m long could be seen about a week ago exactly where the road caved in.

Survivors are not happy with the contractor's post-accident arrangements, either. Li Maomin, 44, was too angry to talk when China Daily approached him Wednesday. "They have just left us alone," the resident of Dazhou, Sichuan province, said.

The CRCC shifted the surviving workers to several nearby three- or four-story buildings, and gave them 200 yuan ($30) each. After that "they have not come back to us", Li said.

Subcontractor problems

Another problem the workers face is that they are not direct employees of the CRCC. Instead, they work for a subcontractor.

Li and Zhu said they had asked the "go-between" firm to sign a formal labor contract with them but were refused.

Zhang Guomin, who headed Li's work team, said: "Of course we want to protect our legal rights and interests, but my direct boss said the CRCC had refused to sign (labor contracts with us)."

Zhang's "direct boss", Fang Hongze, a resident of Qiandaohu, Zhejiang province, could not be reached for his comments because his cell phone had been switched off.

Local media reports have said the CRCC had subcontracted part of the work to smaller firms and non-incorporated construction teams, but failed to oversee them properly.

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