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Unsafe bridges identified
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A campaign to identify and remove hidden dangers threatening bridge safety is proceeding smoothly, a spokesman for the Ministry of Communications said yesterday.

"We have got the whole picture of unsafe bridges across the country, after a month-long check led by Minister Li Shenglin and five vice-ministers," spokesman He Jianzhong said.

He declined to say how many unsafe bridges there were.

He said his next step would be to organize random investigations and ask provincial authorities to check on each other, a process that would be completed by the end of October.

Local communication authority personnel would be asked to restrict traffic flow on suspect bridges and thereby prevent accidents, He said.

The safety campaign was launched in mid August after a bridge under construction in Central China's Hunan Province collapsed and killed 64 people, on August 13.

Fatal bridge collapses have become a problem - and not just for China.

On Wednesday a bridge being built in Vietnam fell and killed at least 60 workers, injuring 150.

In the United States, a freeway bridge under construction collapsed in California on July 31, injuring one worker. The next day, a bridge crossing the Mississippi River, in Minneapolis, collapsed, killing 13 people.

Spokesman He said bridge safety had become a priority for the Ministry of Communications since 2004.

The ministry has spent 15 billion yuan ($2 billion) to repair 7,000 bridges between 2000 and 2005. It plans to make repairs to 6,300 bridges between 2008 and 2010.

These efforts were intensified after the bridge collapse in Hunan Province in August.

The ministry issued an urgent notice on August 18, asking local officials to investigate safety conditions on all highway bridges, especially those with long spans, with heavy traffic and built in a challenging environment.

The ministry has also increased the budget to repair bridges, though figures were not given.

(China Daily September 28, 2007)

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