At least 67 people been killed with two other workers injured and one missing after scaffolding collapsed at a power plant construction site in eastern China.
State broadcaster CCTV said more than 100 paramilitary police joined the rescue effort yesterday.
The plant’s cooling tower which was being built in the city of Fengcheng in Jiangxi province came crashing down at about 7:30am local time, an official with the local Work Safety Administration said.
The death toll suggested that nearly all the construction workers at the cooling tower perished. Local media reports said about 70 people were working at the site when the scaffolding collapsed.
Rescue workers, aided by search dogs, were digging through the debris with their bare hands, according to the state television report, which showed iron pipes, steel bars and wooden planks strewn across the floor of the massive concrete cooling tower.
Rescue dogs were seeking to locate survivors or the bodies of victims, while diggers shifted wreckage to the margins of the massive round tower.
Chinese president Xi Jinping urged local governments to learn from the accident and hold those responsible accountable.
He said that in the wake of recent work accidents, the State Council, China’s cabinet, should carry out thorough inspections of work sites to reduce risks.
China has suffered a series of major industrial accidents over recent months, blamed on corruption, disregard for safety and pressure to boost production amid a slowing economy.
Also yesterday, Yang Dongliang, a former head of the state administration of work safety, stood trial in a Beijing court for allegedly accepting $4.3 million (about £3.45m) in bribes between 2002 and last year, as he rose through the ranks as an official in Tianjin before joining the regulatory agency.
Yang was sacked in August 2015 in connection with a massive explosion at an illegal chemical warehouse in the northern port of Tianjin that killed 173 people, most of them firefighters and police officers. The head of a logistics company was also handed a suspended death sentence over the case.
Earlier this month, 33 miners were killed in a gas explosion at a coal mine in Chongqing in China’s south-west. In 2014, a dust explosion at a metal production workshop killed 146 people.
Other accidents blamed on lax safety standards in recent years have also caused significant fatalities.
In June 2015, 442 people were killed in the capsize on the Yangtze River of a modified cruise ship blamed on poor decisions made by the captain and crew, while 81 people were killed in December when an enormous, man-made mountain of soil and waste collapsed on top of nearly three dozen buildings in the southern manufacturing center of Shenzhen.
Construction of the 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant at the centre of yesterday’s accident began in Fengcheng in late 2015 and was expected to be finished in November 2017.
Provincial officials held a televised news conference last night at which they bowed to express condolences to the workers’ families.
The cause of the collapse is under investigation.
Hundreds of coal-fired power plants are under construction in China.
Beijing has vowed to solve a looming problem of power oversupply and cap greenhouse gas emissions in the medium term, but economic planners said earlier in November they intend to boost coal power generation capacity by a fifth over the next five years, or the equivalent output of hundreds of new coal-fired plants.