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At least 67 killed in east China scaffolding collapse

Associated Press Associated Press 24/11/2016

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Scaffolding at a construction site in eastern China collapsed into a deadly heap on Thursday, as iron pipes, steel bars and wooden planks tumbled down and crushed nearly all 70 workers in the country's worst work-safety accident in over two years.

At least 67 people were killed by the collapse of a work platform at a power plant's cooling tower that was under construction, state media reported. Two others were injured and one worker was missing.

The plant's cooling tower was being built in the city of Fengcheng in Jiangxi province when the scaffolding tumbled down at about 7:30 a.m., an official with the local Work Safety Administration, who would only give his surname Yuan, said by telephone.

The reported death toll suggested that nearly all the construction workers at the cooling tower perished. Close to 70 people were working at the site when the scaffolding collapsed, according to local media reports.

About 500 rescue workers, including paramilitary police officers, were digging through the debris with their bare hands, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Footage showed debris strewn across the floor of the cavernous concrete cooling tower.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, rescue workers look for survivors after a work platform collapsed at the Fengcheng power plant in eastern China's Jiangxi Province, Nov. 24, 2016. State media reported dozens were killed after the scaffolding tumbled down. (Wan Xiang/Xinhua via AP) © The Associated Press In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, rescue workers look for survivors after a work platform collapsed at the Fengcheng power plant in eastern China's Jiangxi Province, Nov. 24, 2016. State media reported dozens were killed after the scaffolding tumbled down. (Wan Xiang/Xinhua via AP) Rescue dogs were seeking to locate survivors or the bodies of victims, while backhoes shifted wreckage to the margins of the massive round tower.

China has suffered several major work-safety accidents in recent years blamed on corruption and pressure to boost production amid a slowing economy. Earlier this month, 33 miners were killed in a gas explosion at a coal mine in the municipality of Chongqing in China's southwest. In 2014, a dust explosion in a metal production workshop killed 146 people.

Other accidents blamed on lax safety standards in recent years have also caused significant fatalities. The head of a logistics company was recently handed a suspended death sentence over a massive explosion at an illegal chemical warehouse in the northern port of Tianjin last year that killed 173 people, most of them firefighters and police officers.

In June 2015, 442 people were killed in the capsize on the Yangtze River of a modified cruise ship blamed on poor decisions made by the captain and crew, while 81 people were killed in December when an enormous, man-made mountain of soil and waste collapsed on nearly three dozen buildings in the southern manufacturing center of Shenzhen.

The 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant at the center of Thursday's accident had begun construction in Fengcheng in late 2015 and was expected to finish in November 2017.

In recent weeks Chinese officials have sent mixed signals about the future of coal in the country's energy production.

Although Beijing has vowed to solve a looming problem of power oversupply, economic planners said earlier in November they intend to boost coal power generation capacity by a fifth over the next five years, or the equivalent output of hundreds of new coal-fired plants.

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