Five more bodies found in Vietnam bridge rubble

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CAN THO, Vietnam, Sep 27 (Reuters) Rescue workers found five more bodies today in the rubble of a bridge that collapsed in southern Vietnam, the country's worst bridge accident in which up to 60 workers were killed.

Rescuers worked through the night cutting away steel scaffolding and concrete from yesterday's disaster in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho where a section of a Japanese-funded bridge under construction collapsed while 250 workers were on the site.

''We were able to pull out three bodies between 3 am and 4 am this morning,'' General Tran Phi Ho, head of the night search operation, said on state-run Vietnam TV. ''We also discovered two more dead.'' It was not clear if the bodies found early today were part of the 60 reported dead earlier.

A 100 workers were injured in the accident.

Officials said the collapse was the worst bridge accident in Vietnam, which is ramping up infrastructure projects to keep pace with an economy growing at more than 8 percent a year.

TV showed footage of construction cranes lifting battered scaffolding and other material as workers in hard hats carefully sifted through debris at the site, which is 170 km southwest of the commercial centre of Ho Chi Minh City.

A contractor with a Chinese company working on the bridge said yesterday that 60 people were killed. State-run Vietnam TV reported 55 dead, 97 injured, including 17 with critical head injuries.

The cause was not immediately known, but officials said that rains may have softened the foundation, which caused the scaffolding to collapse, bringing down part of a 90-meter section of the bridge that had been built on Tuesday. The fallen section was over land next to the Hau River, one of nine tributaries of the Mekong river.

The bridge is being built to link Can Tho and Vinh Long province over the heavily used Hau river.

Japanese companies started building the bridge in 2004 with Japan government aid of 0 million and the Vietnamese government providing other financing. It was to be finished next year and have a span of 2.75 km.

Reuters KK VP0742

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