Rainbow Bridge Collapse

In Chongqing alone 1,600 people have died as a result of shoddy construction.

Forty people died after falling 460 feet when the steel-and-concrete Rainbow Bridge over the Qijang River near Chongqing collapsed. An investigation uncovered faulty welding, $12,000 in bribes given to officials to overlook problems and allow project to exceed its budget. Some of the siphoned-off money was used to build a karaoke parlor with scantily clad girls. Less than a week later, another bridge collapsed in Fujian Province, killing seven people In both cases government officials were arrested on charges of corruption and using shoddy materials.

It was a little before 7 o'clock on a chilly Monday evening in January, and people were heading home from work on the Rainbow Bridge. As a group of soldiers marched across, the 460-foot span of concrete and steel suddenly gave way and crashed into the Qi River.

At least 40 people plunged to their deaths, drowning in the cold water or crushed beneath huge steel supports. People here in southwest China explained the catastrophe with a single word: corruption.

An initial investigation pointed to shoddy workmanship on the 3-year-old bridge and the use of inferior materials, such as steel supports one-third smaller than required.

On Friday, authorities charged five people with graft in connection with the collapse. They include Lin Shiyuan, former deputy Communist Party chief of Qijiang County, who has been accused of taking a $15,700 bribe from the contractor.

The Chongqing court announced that Lin Shiyuan, former deputy secretary of the Qijiang County Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, should be sentenced to death for his part in the tragedy.

Another 12 accused over the incident, including the bridge's contractor, engineer, materials supplier, and several government officials concerned, each received a fixed-term imprisonment, ranging from three to 13 years.

According to Chinese law, the defendants can appeal to a higher court.

The trial has aroused national interest in China and was broadcast live on television.