36 people killed as highway collapses in southern China due to heavy rains

A roughly 60-foot section of a highway in rural southeastern China collapsed before dawn Wednesday after days of heavy rain, killing 36 people and injuring 30 others.

Photos released after the incident showed the landslide starting under two lanes of the highway that run along the side of the hill. A wide trail of brown mud ran down the side of the hill among the bright green leaves, leaving a gaping gap in the highway.

Cars lay in disarray at the foot of the hill below the hole, blackened and still smoking from a fire that raged overnight, and dozens of fire trucks descended on the area.

Many of the survivors suffered serious injuries, with the driver and passengers alike suffering severe fractures and internal injuries, state media said.

Witnesses told state media that they heard a loud bang and struggled for some time to maintain control of the car. That’s when he noticed that the road was collapsing right behind him, and the cars following him disappeared into thin air.

Highways across China are particularly congested as a five-day holiday begins on Wednesday. The highway collapsed on the eastern outskirts of Meizhou, Guangdong province. Many of the victims were on their way to neighboring Fujian province when the holidays began.

More than 500 rescue workers from police, emergency departments and other departments were called in. Local traffic police closed the highway to traffic in both directions.

Most of the northeastern part of Guangdong province, where the accident occurred, is a rugged land with continuous hills. Another section of the same expressway was temporarily closed in April last year after a landslide covered the road in mud. No deaths or injuries were reported at the time.

Southern China has experienced severe weather over the past two months as moist, warm air continues to accumulate from the South China Sea toward the southwest. The Central Japan Meteorological Observatory issued an orange warning, the highest level of severe weather, seven times in April.

A rare tornado and hailstorm struck the neighboring city of Guangzhou, a manufacturing hub in southern China, on Saturday, killing five people and injuring 33 others. And on Tuesday, Shenzhen Airport issued an orange alert for major flight delays for the first time this year.

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