Ten dead, 33 missing after Indonesia bridge collapse


The death toll from a weekend bridge collapse on Borneo island climbed to 10 on Monday with more than 30 people still reported missing, Indonesian rescue officials said.
Dozens of vehicles and construction workers were thrown into the water when the busy 720-metre-long bridge — built to resemble San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge — over the Mahakam river collapsed on Saturday.
“We found five more more bodies this morning on the banks of the river, so the toll is now 10. They had been washed up to shore overnight,” National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told AFP.
“Thirty-nine people have been injured and based on reports by the community, at least 33 are missing.
“It’s difficult to know exactly how many are missing because we don’t know how many vehicles and people fell when the bridge collapsed.”
The river “is around 35 to 40 metres (yards) deep and has zero visibility down there,” he added.
Nugroho said rescue teams would use echo-sounding to analyse the position of the bridge’s underwater metal frame to ensure it is safe to start removing the debris.
Witnesses reportedly heard a loud crashing sound as the structure buckled, sending a public bus, cars and motorcycles plunging into the broad river in Kutai Kartanegara district.
Survivors desperately swam to the shore, screaming in panic, while others were trapped underwater beneath the debris.
The cause of the collapse was not immediately clear but Nugroho said on Sunday that a steel support cable for the bridge, finished in 2002, snapped as workers were repairing it.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered an investigation.
Indonesia is setting a blistering pace of growth, expected to top six percent this year, but investors complain infrastructure is hopelessly inadequate and that the nation is mired in corruption and red tape.
The government last year announced plans to spend $140 billion on infrastructure until 2014, more than half of which would have to come from the private sector.
There have been a string of bridge disasters in Indonesia in recent years, including two others this year, according to local newspapers.
Last month, a bridge in South Sumatra province collapsed under the weight of a trailer-truck loaded with construction materials, and in September two workers were killed and four injured when a bridge under construction collapsed in the same province.
Also on Sumatra island, 12 children died in October last year when a suspension bridge collapsed as they were taking part in a traditional ceremony to dispel bad luck.
In April 2009, one person died and two others were injured when a bridge collapsed in Central Kalimantan province.