Vietnam rescuers find 8 more bodies in bridge rubble

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CAN THO, Vietnam, Sep 27 (Reuters) Rescue workers today found eight more bodies in the rubble of a bridge which collapsed killing up to 60 people in Vietnam's worst such accident, officials said.

Rescuers toiled through the night cutting away steel scaffolding and concrete in the Mekong Delta where a section of a Japanese-funded bridge under construction collapsed on Wednesday while 250 workers were on the site.

''Our top priority is to look for the remaining missing,'' Transport Minister Ho Nghia Dung told Reuters TV at the scene of the collapse near the busy Hau River that separates the southern city of Can Tho from Vinh Long province.

''This is the most serious ever bridge incident in the history of the transport sector,'' said Dung, one of several cabinet ministers in the ruling Communist Party to visit the site.

He said construction would resume as soon as the site was cleared and safe.

President Nguyen Minh Triet visited injured workers in hospital and he also went to the scene of the disaster. Some of the injured suffered critical head injuries, a hospital official said.

Officials said eight bodies were found on Thursday, the afternoon newspaper Saigon Giai Phong (Liberation Saigon) reported.

There were conflicting reports about the death toll with one contractor reporting 60 killed.

The official Vietnam News Agency said 64 died and 180 were injured. Vietnam TV quoted officials as saying 43 workers were confirmed dead and 10 missing.

The twisted mass of steel, broken concrete and bent scaffolding stood at the height of a five-storey building about 500 metres from the river in Vinh Long.

Relatives of construction workers kept a vigil near the cordoned-off disaster area, which is about 170 km southwest of the commercial centre of Ho Chi Minh City.

The reason for the accident was not immediately known, but officials said rains may have softened the foundations, causing scaffolding to collapse and bringing down a 90-metre section that was being worked on.

''I was at the south pillar, the north side collapsed first, then all,'' said Filipino worker Arnel Tabriga.

The Philippines foreign ministry said none of its nationals were killed. A spokesman for one of the Japanese companies in a joint venture to build the 2.75-km long bridge said 16 of its workers were all accounted for.

The Japanese embassy in Hanoi said officials from the Japan International Cooperation Agency that provided capital for the bridge were at the site and focused on helping to find survivors.

Work on the bridge started in 2004 to link Can Tho and Vinh Long province and it was scheduled for completion next year.

The bridge would have a four-lane carriageway and improve access between the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City.

REUTERS ARB VC1402

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