The onrush of building parts in the river follows the discovery of compromised concrete in more than a dozen skyscrapers under construction in Shenzhen last month. Inspectors halted construction on those buildings, including what was slated to become China's tallest skyscraper. Building officials say low-quality sea sand found in the concrete would jeopardize the structural integrity of the buildings.
Along the Pearl River, entire walls, pieces of building facades and splintered support beams could be seen bobbing down the river and for miles upstream, leading observers to worry that the compromised concrete in Shenzhen is only one instance of a more widespread problem emerging in China's abundantly active construction sector.
Standing beside his small canoe on the shore next to the Pearl River north of Guangzhou, fisherman Liang Tao managed to pull some of the passing building pieces onto the banks. "This isn't even wood," he said as he easily lifted up a long support beam. "It's just papier mache on chicken wire."
Thousands of residents in the Pearl River Delta have come out to see the buildings carried downstream, despite a lack of coverage by state-run media. "It's like an entire downtown floating by," said Zhang Qian, who drove her son 40 miles on newly constructed highways to watch the flow of doorways and windows in the suddenly congested river. Wei, 10, asked his mother where so many crumbled buildings came from. "They’re creating so many cities out there," she told him, "these buildings could have come from anywhere."