Bridge collapse kills up to 60 workers in Vietnam

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HANOI, Sept 26 (Reuters) Part of a bridge under construction collapsed in southern Vietnam today, killing up to 60 workers with scores injured and missing, officials said.

State-run Vietnam TV showed footage of damage to the collapsed concrete and steel structure being built to link Can Tho City and Vinh Long province over the heavily used Hau river.

A contractor with China State Construction Engineering Corp, one of the firms involved in building the bridge in the Mekong Delta, said 60 people were dead.

''They are still pulling out bodies from the rubble. I could hear the screams,'' the contractor said from Can Tho, 170 km southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

A police official in Vinh Long said he saw 36 bodies.

''They are using machinery to cut and lift the concrete,'' the police official said by telephone. ''It is very difficult to reach the bodies and there is also danger of further collapse.'' The cause of the collapse on part of the 2.75 km (1.7 miles) bridge was not immediately known, but Vietnam TV reported that rains might have weakened the foundations.

State-run Tuoi Tre's (Youth) online edition published names of 28 people reported dead at three hospitals in Can Tho and Vinh Long.

It said at least 150 people were being treated for injuries.

Most of the workers were Vietnamese. The contractor said less than 10 Filipinos and Japanese were unaccounted for.

Police said there were about 100 workers directly under the section of the bridge where scaffolding collapsed at about 8.30 a m local time at the start of a shift. About 150 workers were on the bridge surface, a Can Tho police officer said.

''The figures of victims are still being updated but as many as 100 could be dead or missing,'' the officer said by telephone.

Japanese companies started building the bridge in 2004 with Japan government aid of 0 million. It was to be finished next year.

Officials said about 250 engineers and workers from three Japanese contractors -- Taisei Corp, Kajima Corp and Nippon Steel Engineering Co Ltd -- were on site at the time of the accident.

The Hau river is one of the nine tributaries of the Mekong river.

Rice traders said barge traffic would not be affected by the accident.

REUTERS JK KN1438

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