BEIJING (AP) – The bodies of 14 workers trapped in the flooding of a tunnel under construction last week have been found, authorities in southern China said on Thursday.
A brief statement on the Zhuhai City Government’s social media site gave no further information on the cause of the July 15 disaster or the deaths.
The Shijingshan Tunnel is a section of a highway under construction that passes under a reservoir in the city of Guangdong Province, near Hong Kong and Macau.
The rescue effort involved divers, remote-controlled submarines and other high-tech equipment, as surface workers rushed to pump water from the tunnel. Work was sometimes hampered by carbon monoxide fumes from machinery used in the tunnel as part of the operation.
Although the cause remains uncertain, reports indicate that an abnormal noise was heard and that pieces of material began to fall from one side of the two-tube tunnel. An evacuation was ordered as the water rushed in, but the 14 people who died were unable to escape in time.
The construction project appeared to have had safety issues for some time. In March, two workers died in another part of the tunnel.
Zhuhai is a relatively wealthy coastal city located at the mouth of the Pearl River Delta, which is now heavily developed for manufacturing and high-tech industries.
It was one of China’s first special economic zones when the ruling Communist Party started opening up the country’s economy about 40 years ago.
Demands for rapid economic growth, poor compliance with safety standards, poor maintenance and corruption among enforcement agencies are responsible for frequent industrial accidents in China.
Those responsible are often severely punished, but the high demand and desire for profit often outweigh the security concerns.
Among the worst accidents was a massive explosion in 2015 at a chemical warehouse in the port city of Tianjin that killed 173 people, most of them firefighters and police. The explosion was blamed on illegal construction and dangerous storage of volatile materials.