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December 15, 2009

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Revealed: tiny victims of trucks

The tales of horror involving construction trucks in Shanghai, it seems, have no end.

As fatalities mount, the largely forgotten stories are the victims of terrible injuries - many of them children.

The spate of road accidents involving the trucks coincides with the city's fast track on massive construction projects ahead of the 2010 World Expo that begins next May.

Some children injured by construction trucks have debilitating conditions that could disable them for life.

Nine children, aged between three and 12, were admitted to the Children's Hospital of Fudan University, in suburban Minhang District, from July to November.

Zhang Jie, a six-year-old girl, has been in the hospital's intensive care unit after being run over by a truck 21 days ago and was only removed from a respiratory machine on Sunday.

The construction truck, which was making a turn, ran over her lower abdomen, causing major damage to her perineum and legs.

"We could hardly identify her perineum when she arrived here," said Dr Ma Ruixue, director of the hospital's pediatrics department. "There was just so much blood."

She has proved a tenacious fighter and has pulled through after undergoing surgery from specialists in the pediatrics and urology departments of the hospital.

However, she faces a long road to full recovery, and permanent disabilities are likely.

"I just want these truck drivers to be careful while driving," Ma said. "They should ask themselves how they would feel if these injured children were their children."

Construction vehicles have been linked to at least 14 deadly accidents since November.

Truck drivers in the fatal mishaps have been detained.

Police said the 14 adult fatalities had mainly been moped or bike riders.

No official figures have been released on the number of injuries caused by construction trucks, nor the child fatality rate.

"The kids are vulnerable since they don't know how to protect themselves," said Yang Jun, deputy chief of Jiading District's police department.

"Sometimes children, especially migrant children, ignore traffic laws and play on the road or jaywalk.

"Construction trucks usually drive very quickly, which adds a big risk factor for children's safety."

On December 1, Shanghai launched a crackdown on speeding or overloaded construction vehicles, enforced by traffic police.

The city plans a second campaign, joined by five other government departments.

Some truck companies face license losses or suspension from operations.

Authorities have found some drivers are lacking in safety education.

Worse, some companies have even encouraged drivers to overload vehicles in the interests of short-term profits.


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