Is Chinese Bridge Collapse Just the Tip of an Infrastructure Disaster Iceberg?

A year after a deadly high-speed train accident occurred in the eastern city of Wenzhou, a portion of one of the longest bridges in northern China collapsed on Friday, reigniting concerns over infrastructure built at breakneck speed in recent years.

Keith Bradsher reports on the deadly failure of a bridge over the Songhua River in the city of Harbin completed just nine months ago, "triggering a storm of criticism from Chinese Internet users and underscoring questions about the quality of construction in China's rapid expansion of its infrastructure."

"China's massive economic stimulus program in 2009 and 2010 helped the country avoid most of the effects of the global economic downturn, but involved incurring heavy debt to pay for the rapid construction of new bridges, highways and high-speed rail lines all over the country," writes Bradsher. And a spate of failures have raised questions, both outside China and inside, as to the quality of materials used during construction and whether projects were properly engineered. 

"According to the official Xinhua news agency, the Yangmingtan Bridge was the sixth major bridge in China to collapse since July 2011. Chinese officials have tended to blame the collapses on overloaded trucks, and did so again on Friday." 

Full Story: Collapse of New Bridge Underscores China’s Infrastructure Concerns



Bridge Collapse the tip of the Iceberg?

There are literally tens if not hundreds of millions of buildings around the world built with reinforced concrete where rusting reinforcing rods pose a serious risk of catastrophic failure in the future. Poorly understood technology (only recently has even the US started using coated rods to prevent spalling due to rust) and limited if non-existent building codes and/or enforcement make this a particular threat in areas where rainfall and humidity accelerate the process. China, India and a host of smaller countries enjoying a building boom today will soon find that they have a serious problem on their hands.
J. David Stein

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