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November 5, 2010

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Action after deadly bridge collapse

MINHANG District's Pujiang Town officials said they will conduct thorough inspections and repairs on the town's 100-plus small and old bridges, after one collapsed on Tuesday, leading to the death of a motorcyclist.

According to the town's water affairs department director surnamed Min, they will set up barriers and warning signs on all bridges to deter heavy trucks from crossing them.

An old bridge collapsed previously on October 5 in the same town, but the situation didn't come to the government's attention until the motorcyclist died on Tuesday.

"Many bridges were built 30 or 40 years ago by farmers using concrete and rocks, and are not designed to support the weight of modern heavy cargo trucks," said Min.

Min said although local farmers knew the bridges were not suitable for bearing heavy weights, some drivers from other villages and towns would often ignore the warning signs and cross anyway, which leads to damage to the bridges.

A Shanghai Daily investigation has found that safety problems with small and old bridges are quite common in the city's suburban areas.

Although there are a huge number of such bridges, many of them are not recorded by the town governments, thus they have not received any repairs or maintenance work for a long time.

Even if they are recorded by the government, a complicated application procedure for repair work needs to be conducted, according to road management officials.

Dangerous bridges reported by villagers will first be inspected by government officials, and they have to apply for funds for repair works or reconstruction, which often takes a long time.

Moreover, many truck drivers take the risk of using the narrow, weak bridges as shortcuts, otherwise they have to drive miles out of their way to cross rivers.

A bridge on Nangang Road, Laogang Town, has been found with a crack in the middle of it - even so heavily laden trucks are still crossing over it regularly.

Although a notice has been placed nearby saying heavy trucks were not allowed to use it, there are no cameras or traffic police monitoring the bridge or the vehicles crossing it in violation of the notice's warning.

A Laogang Town Road Management official surnamed Gu told Shanghai Daily that they were planning to set up monitoring stations or cameras on the bridges next year.


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