13 dead after bus runs off flooded bridge into river in northern China

A bus carrying 51 people veered off Wangmu Bridge and into the Hutuo River on Monday.

At least 13 people were dead and one missing after a bus ran off a partially submerged bridge and into a swollen river in northern China on Monday morning.

Hebei emergency management authorities said 51 people were on board the bus when it veered off Wangmu Bridge and into the Hutuo River in Pingshan county at around 7am, about 40km (25 miles) from the centre of Shijiazhuang, the provincial capital.

The bridge was partially submerged because the Gangnan Reservoir upstream had discharged water over several days, The Beijing News reported, quoting Qie Yonggang, the official in charge of management and protection of the section of the river.

“The bridge should not be open. There should be security guards watching over the bridge,” Qie was quoted as saying.

The bridge was partially submerged at the time of the accident.
PHOTO: Weibo

The bus was taking workers to the Jingye Group steel plant about 10km away, and 37 people were rescued, according to the emergency department.

State broadcaster CCTV aired footage showing rescued passengers wearing life jackets sitting on the roof of the coach in the rapids, waiting to be taken to shore.

The muddied bus was salvaged later in the morning, with extensive damage to the roof of the vehicle.

The driver of the bus was detained by police.

People wait on the roof of the bus to e rescued.
PHOTO: Weibo

Pingshan has been battered by heavy rain in the past few days, resulting in landslides and collapsed roads.

The Gangnan Reservoir is the biggest one managed by Hebei authorities and water levels on Saturday were among the highest ever for this time of year, state-run Hebei Daily reported.

Photos showed cranes and unfinished bridge piers next to the submerged bridge.

A video clip circulating on Chinese social media apparently taken by a passenger in a coach crossing the Wangmu bridge on Sunday showed the bridge was already submerged. The date of the footage could not be verified.

Hebei officials scrambled to the scene to oversee rescue operations.

“Provincial Communist Party secretary Wang Dongfeng and governor Xu Qin issued ordersimmediately and demanded that all missing people be rescued at any cost ... and the cause of the accident determined as quickly as possible,” the emergency department said on its Weibo account on Monday afternoon.

Repeated phone calls to Qie, the river chief, went unanswered.

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.