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Bridge's return delights old soldier

AS hundreds of onlookers watched a barge carrying one half of the landmark Waibaidu Bridge along the Bund and the Suzhou Creek yesterday morning, one face stood out among the crowd.

Retired veteran Xu Xingfang, 83, started cheering loudly as the barge and its cargo came into view.

Xu was more excited than most. He was anxious to see if he could find the bullet marks on the bridge that were made by his gun when as a soldier of the Chinese People's Liberation Army he took part in the battle to take over Shanghai from the Kuomintang forces in 1949.

"We launched the attack in tanks and fought through a fierce battle," Xu said, a native of Yangzhou City in Jiangsu Province who settled in Shanghai after the liberation war. "I fired several shots that hit the bridge. I'm just curious to see if they are still there.''

It's unlikely the bullet marks are still there, especially after the bridge spent 10 months getting repaired.

But Xu was excited at the sight of the historic span's refurbished appearance, as were hundreds of others in the crowd.

Most of the onlookers welcoming the return of the bridge were elderly Shanghainese. Many seniors treasure Waibaidu Bridge compared to younger generations as it has been a landmark in Shanghai since it was built in 1907. Even rain and a chilly wind could not dampen their enthusiasm as they waited and watched with patience yesterday.

Another local surnamed Yang, 62, said he reached the banks of the creek at 8am. He "wanted to witness history'' and was proud of the repairs to the bridge.

Some even checked in at nearby hotels with good views of the creek to watch.

Even some expatriates living in the city and some overseas tourists were on hand to witness the occasion.

Storm Prinds Hold, a 38-year-old Denmark native married to a Shanghai woman, watched the bridge's return yesterday with his wife.

"Shanghai is my second hometown," he said. "My wife told me the bridge was the most famous in Shanghai and we are here to celebrate the happiness and historic moment,'' he said.

The Bund traffic project headquarters said rain didn't affect yesterday's operation to place the northern section of the bridge back on its support.

The workers finally placed the northern section in position at 4pm. The southern half will be put back in place today.

Waibaidu Bridge is scheduled to reopen in early April.

The Timeline Of A Delicate Procedure

7:40am The northern section of Waibaidu Bridge was loaded on a barge at Minsheng Road Dock in Pudong, the site of the repair work.

10:20am The barge slowly sailed into the Suzhou Creek from the Huangpu River.

11am The barge reached the designated spot at the bridge's original site, waiting for the right tide to help workers put the northern span in place.

1pm The locating operation started as the tide reached its highest level.

4pm The northern span was successfully relocated and stabilized in its original location on the creek.


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