Highway collapse leaves 36 dead, 30 more injured

BEIJING, CHINA – A landslide following heavy rain in southern China led to the collapse of a section of a major highway. This resulted in the deaths of at least 36 people, as reported by local authorities on Thursday.

The Meizhou city government found 23 vehicles trapped after a chunk of the highway, approximately 58.7 feet in length, crumbled around 2 a.m. local time on Wednesday. Furthermore, the incident injured 30 people, all of who sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Rescue efforts were hindered by persistent rainfall, as well as the falling gravel and soil at the location, threatening rescue workers’ safety, a fire department representative communicated to local media.

In response, rescue teams reportedly segmented the area into ten grids to enhance search operations, employing life-detection devices and K-9 units. Additionally, heavy machinery such as cranes and excavators was brought in for assistance.

Witnesses recalled hearing a loud noise and seeing a broad hole opening up behind them as they drove past the section before its collapse. Media coverage showed the damage caused by the event, with billowing smoke and fire at the scene, vehicles plunged into ravine, further charred by flames.

This region has witnessed an alarming increase in rainfall over the past few weeks, receiving over 22 inches in the last four weeks, a stark increase from the previous year. A number of villages have experienced flooding in April due to reoccurring heavy downpours.

Record levels of rainfall and flooding, coupled with hail and even a tornado, have recently wreaked havoc in parts of Guangdong province.
Mountainous roadways and highway bridges are particularly vulnerable to such weather conditions due to heightened risk of erosion, debris movement, and landslides. Despite China’s rapid infrastructural expansion in recent years, with over a million added highway bridges, quality concerns in design and construction have arisen, while regular maintenance and inspections have been overlooked.

Several fatalities have been reported over the years due to tunnel collapses and floods, most notably the drowning of 14 individuals during a massive flood in the central city of Zhengzhou. Reports found inadequacies in the system’s equipment and a disregard in suspending service as should have complied with government directives.