Rescuers find more bodies in Vietnam bridge disaster

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CAN THO, Vietnam, Sep 27 (Reuters) Rescue workers today found five more bodies 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 where a section of a Japanese-funded bridge under construction collapsed while 250 workers were on the site.

''Overnight we have retrieved five more bodies,'' Transport Minister Ho Nghia Dung told Reuters TV at the scene of the collapse near the heavily trafficked Hau River that separates the city of Can Tho from Vinh Long province.

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

One woman fainted in grief when she was told that her husband's body was among the five.

It was not clear whether the bodies, discovered in the early hours of Thursday, were part of the toll of 60 reported earlier.

About 100 workers were reported hurt, an estimated 17 with critical head injuries, a hospital official said.

The transport minister said so far 42 bodies had been identified and 87 people were injured, but more people were believed to be missing.

''Our top priority is to look for the remaining missing,'' Dung said. ''This is the worst bridge accident in Vietnam's history.'' Dung said construction would resume as soon as the site was cleared and safe.

The reason for the collapse was not immediately known, but officials said rains may have softened the foundation, causing scaffolding to collapse and bringing down a 90-metre (300-foot) section that had been built on Tuesday.

Some relatives of the missing told the Tieng Phong (Vanguard) newspaper that on Wednesday they had received mobile phone calls from victims injured and stuck in the rubble.

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.

Construction cranes lifted battered scaffolding and other material as workers in hard hats carefully sifted through debris.

Underdeveloped Vietnam is ramping up infrastructure projects to keep pace with an economy growing at more than 8 per cent a year.

Japanese aid and a Japanese joint venture have been working on the bridge since 2004 to link Can Tho and Vinh Long province. The construction of a 2.75-km bridge was to have been completed by next year.


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