Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has confirmed that overloading was to blame for the tragic bridge collapse that left eight dead and at least 30 others wounded in the northeastern mountainous province of Lai Chau on February 24, adding that the transport ministry must take direct responsibility.

At a tele-conference reviewing traffic safety held in Hanoi on February 25, Phuc, who is also head of the National Traffic Safety Committee, directed localities to inspect all suspension bridges, especially those in mountainous regions. He cited the disaster in Lai Chau as a lesson for others.

The accident occurred at around 8am on February 24 in Son Binh commune, Tam Duong district while a funeral procession was crossing from the village of Chu Va 8 towards Chu Va 6. According to Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Nguyen Chuong, the bridge became overloaded, causing cables to break and sending the victims plummeting into the rocky streams below.

Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang the same day made an emergency trip to the province, where he extended the condolences of Government leaders, the National Traffic Safety Committee and the Steering Committee for the Northwestern Region to the bereaved families and the injured. He also praised medical staff at the Lai Chau General Hospital for their swift response to the unfolding tragedy.

Helicopters have been deployed to carry surgeons from the Hanoi-based Viet Duc and Bach Mai hospitals to Lai Chau, while the general hospital in neighbouring Lao Cai province has also sent medical staff for assistance.

On February 25, Thang is scheduled to call on other families of the victims and direct the post-accident recovery.

The Lai Chau General Hospital has so far conducted 12 operations on victims with serious liver, kidney, spleen and gut injuries. Some suffering brain injuries are waiting for further assistance from central-level hospitals.

The provincial authorities and Red Cross Society have offered the families of the dead 6.4 million VND (300 USD) and the injured, 3.2 million VND (152 USD), each.

The 54-metre-long bridge was opened in December 2012 with a capacity of supporting loads up to 1.5 tonnes.-VNA