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. More than 20 jailed over 2007 China bridge collapse: state media

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jan 9, 2009
More than 20 government officials and contractors were sentenced Friday to jail terms of up to 19 years for graft and negligence over a 2007 bridge collapse that killed 64 people, state media said.

The 328-metre (1,076-foot) bridge over the Tuo river in Hunan province crumbled in August 2007 as workers removed steel scaffolding erected during its construction.

State media reports have said shoddy workmanship was to blame for the collapse of the bridge built by Hunan Provincial Road and Bridge Construction Company, a firm owned by the Hunan provincial government.

Among those sentenced were You Xingfu, general manager of Fengda Road Construction Company and proprietor of the bridge, who was sentenced to 19 years for "accepting bribes, malpractice and organised crime", the official Xinhua news agency said.

A Hunan court also fined You 50,000 yuan (7,300 dollars) and ordered him to repay about 259,000 yuan he "obtained illegally", it said, giving no details.

The exact number convicted was not immediately clear as various Xinhua reports mentioned either 21 or 22 people.

Also sentenced were Hu Dongsheng, head of the local road administration, to 19 years in jail, and Wang Weibo, a senior traffic bureau official, to 15 years.

The government warned after the disaster that many bridges had been hastily erected by greedy builders, leading to structural problems, amid China's massive recent development rush, according to state press.

More than 150 workers had been on the site at the time of the collapse, with many of them on top of or directly below the bridge, reports said at the time.

Industrial accidents, often linked to shoddy work, flouting of safety rules, and corruption, claim thousands of lives in China each year.

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Search halted, dozens still missing after deadly Guatemala landslide
Guatemala City (AFP) Jan 6, 2009
The death toll from a weekend landslide in northern Guatemala rose to 35 while dozens remained missing as rescue efforts were suspended due to unstable terrain, an official said Tuesday.

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