74 People Killed As Scaffolding Collapses at a Chinese Power Plant

November 25, 2016, 6:07 AM UTC
Rescuers work at the accident site at the Fengcheng power plant in Yichun City, east China's Jiangxi Province, Nov. 24, 2016.
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

At least 74 people were killed when scaffolding collapsed during construction work at a power plant in Fengcheng, southern China, on Thursday, according to reports by state media Xinhua News Agency.

The incident occurred at around 7:30 a.m. local time when a falling crane brought down a work platform inside a cooling tower that was being added to the Ganneng Fengcheng coal-fired power plant. Video footage broadcast by CCTV showed rescue workers in orange overalls combing through a heap of twisted girders and crumpled metal inside the gigantic cylindrical structure.

Li Yihuang, a vice governor of Jiangxi province, where the accident occurred, told reporters at a news briefing that an investigation would be conducted to punish those deemed responsible. And Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has said that investigators should leave “no stone unturned,” in determining what went wrong, CCTV reports.

Thursday’s incident—the most serious industrial disaster in China since a landslide at a waste tip in Shenzhen killed 81 people last year—will raise further questions on industrial safety in China.

Despite a number of campaigns to increase work place safety, China’s State Administration of Work Safety has registered 14,136 deaths in worksite accidents in the first six months of 2016 alone, CNN reports. But this still represents an 8.1% drop from the previous year, according to the department.

The construction work at Ganneng Fengcheng—part of a 7.67 billion yuan ($1.1 billion) expansion project according to local government announcements—is one of a series of Chinese investments in coal-fired power plants driven by a low commodity prices and the availability of low cost financing.

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The Wall Street Journal reports that although Beijing has committed to lowering carbon emissions by around 2030 and reducing overcapacity in the coal industry, tens of billions will be spent on coal fired plants over the next two years.