All 14 workers confirmed dead in tunnel flood in China


BEIJING – The bodies of all 14 workers trapped in the flooding of a tunnel under construction last week have been recovered, authorities in southern China said Thursday.

A brief statement posted on the Zhuhai City Government’s social media site did not provide any further information about the cause of the July 15 disaster or the deaths.

The Shijingshan Tunnel is a section of an expressway under construction that runs under a reservoir in the provincial city of Guangdong near Hong Kong and Macau.

The rescue operations involved divers, remote-controlled submarines, and other high-tech equipment, while surface workers rushed to pump water out of the tunnel. The work was temporarily hampered by carbon monoxide fumes from machines that were used in the tunnel as part of the operation.

While the cause remains unclear, reports say an abnormal noise was heard and debris fell from one side of the two-tube tunnel. When water penetrated, an evacuation was ordered, but the 14 deceased were unable to escape in time.

The 14 workers could not leave the tunnel despite the evacuation order.
The 14 workers could not leave the tunnel despite the evacuation order.

The construction project seemed to have had security problems for some time. In March, two workers died in another part of the tunnel.

Zhuhai is a relatively affluent coastal city at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta, which is currently under heavy development for manufacturing and high-tech industries.

It was one of China’s early Special Economic Zones when the ruling Communist Party began opening up the country’s economy some 40 years ago.

Calls for breakneck economic growth, poor compliance with safety standards, poor maintenance, and corruption with enforcement agencies are blamed for common workplace accidents in China.

Those responsible are often severely punished, but high demand and greed for profit often trump security concerns.

One of the worst accidents in 2015 was a massive explosion in a chemical warehouse in the port city of Tianjin, killing 173 people, most of them firefighters and police officers. The explosion has been attributed to illegal construction and unsafe storage of volatile materials.

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