Fatalities rise to five following vessel strike on Guangzhou’s Lixinsha Bridge

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22nd February 2024 – (Guangzhou) In the early morning hours of Thursday, a severe maritime accident occurred on the outskirts of Guangzhou in the Pearl River Delta, resulting in the loss of at least five lives.

At approximately 5.30am, a container barge, reportedly empty and en route from Foshan to the Nansha district of Guangzhou, struck a section of the Lixinsha Bridge as it traversed the Hongqili Waterway. The impact was catastrophic, severing part of the bridge and sending vehicles plummeting into the churning waters below.

The Guangzhou Maritime Safety Administration released an immediate advisory on WeChat, confirming the incident and the consequent cessation of all traffic over the compromised structure. The televised scenes, broadcast by state-owned China Central Television (CCTV), displayed a grim tableau: an empty container barge wedged solidly between two pillars of the bridge, with a glaring absence where the bridge’s dual carriageway should have been.

The casualty report is as sombre as the scene: four motor vehicles and one motorbike were involved in the disaster. Of these, two—including a bus—were submerged, while the remaining three came to rest on the barge itself. CCTV reported that the bus driver, who was the sole occupant, survived the ordeal but has since been unreachable for comments.

The Guangzhou Maritime Search and Rescue Centre reported that four vehicles and one motorcycle fell from the bridge into the water and onto a ship below, initially resulting in two fatalities and three missing persons. By this afterrnoon, officials announced that all individuals previously unaccounted for had been located but had perished. Additionally, the owner of the vessel involved has been taken into custody. Viral videos have surfaced, showing the moment the ship collided with a bridge pier, leading to a section of the bridge deck breaking off and plummeting down.

The government stated that the accident was caused by improper operation by the crew members of the vessel, and the ship’s owner has been detained. Videos that have gone viral online show the ship colliding with a bridge pier, resulting in a section of the bridge deck breaking and falling.

News released by the WeChat account of Guangzhou Nansha stated that around 5.30am on Thursday, an empty container ship travelling from Foshan Nanhai to Guangzhou Nansha touched the Lixinsha Bridge while passing through the Hongqi Lixi waterway, causing the bridge deck to fracture. Nearby residents had been evacuated. Relevant departments rushed to the scene immediately to undertake emergency rescue operations. The Lixinsha Bridge serves as a main passage for residents of Sanmin Island, and traffic control has been implemented on the bridge following the incident. Zhong Weihong, the village party secretary of Minjian Village on the island, noted that ferry services are still available for residents to travel.

In a press conference held by the Nansha government in the afternoon, officials reported that at about 5.31am on Thursday, the Foshan-registered container ship “Lianghui 688” collided with pier 18 of the Lixinsha Bridge while navigating through the Hongqi Lixi waterway due to improper operation by the crew. Subsequently, the ship’s bow also hit pier 19, causing the bridge deck above the navigation hole to break. Upon verification, a total of four vehicles and one motorcycle fell from the break, including an unoccupied medium-sized bus, a truck, and a motorcycle that fell into the cargo hold of Lianghui 688, while two small trucks fell into the water. The deceased included the driver of the medium-sized bus, the motorcyclist, and three individuals from the small trucks that fell into the water. Two individuals are receiving treatment at the hospital and are currently in stable condition; one crew member from the accident-causing vessel sustained minor injuries.