18 Dead After Crane Collapses In Dongguan, China: 80-Ton Crane Falls On Housing Made Of Shipping Containers

A crane collapsed in the China’s Guangdong province, killing about 18 people. The industrial crane weighing 80 tons was toppled by high winds and landed atop a temporary housing complex made from shipping containers.

According to the local news agency, an official in the Dongguan City confirmed the news and added that the crane had fallen onto a two-story building. The building was temporarily erected to house the construction workers. It is quite likely that the building, made from large shipping containers, wasn’t structurally sound or affixed to a concrete foundation. The death toll could have been a lot higher, but fortunately, over a hundred construction workers managed to escape.

According to official reports, the collapsing crane killed 18 people, while 18 others have been admitted to hospitals, reported BBC News. The massive overhead crane was being used at a nearby construction site. Preliminary investigations indicate the crane buckled due to a fierce windstorm.

The spokesperson for the rescue effort, Luo Bin, shared the temporary housing complex made from shipping containers had 139 workers in them when the accident happened, reported the Associated Press. While exact numbers haven’t been forthcoming, according to Bin, about 88 managed to escape on their own, while about 15 were rescued. Among the 18 who have been admitted to the hospital, four have been listed as critical. However, the spokesperson did stress that all four are in a stable condition and expected to recover.

By the description of the multi-story temporary housing complex, it appears it was erected by placing shipping containers on top of one another. The containers are stacked in such a way that they act as self-supporting blocks. The large hollow containers have ample space within them to establish living quarters for hundreds of workers.

These containers often arrive at the construction site carrying construction equipment and machinery. Once emptied, the containers serve as housing complexes for construction workers until the construction activity is completed. With no running water or heat, these containers do not offer any amenities, but construction workers have little choice but to take shelter in them. To keep the workers close by, the shipping containers are arranged into living quarters and are placed very near or on the construction site itself, posing a huge risk to the lives of the workers.

An investigation has already been opened into the accident. Moreover, 20 million yuan ($3 million) have been made available. The money has been pooled in by the companies that have vested interest in the construction activity. The funds will be used for the recovery and clean-up activities around the construction site and, hopefully, to assist the injured workers.

Such accidents are woefully common in the crowded cities and towns of China. Due to a severe shortage of land, construction companies are often forced to cut corners and manage the construction activity, workers, equipment, material, and the waste within the tight confines of the construction site itself.

The investigation may reveal if the accident could have been avoided, however, it seems strong winds were the reason for the collapse of the crane. The southern city of Dongguan experiences windstorms, and workers have to routinely brace themselves while the wind lashes at them. Construction activity high in the air exacerbates the situation.

Just last year, 74 people were left dead or missing when a man-made mountain of construction waste collapsed onto buildings in the nearby city of Shenzhen, reported CBC News. It is suspected the accident could have been avoided, however, those responsible for managing the waste were allegedly callous about their duties. The police arrested about 11 people in connection with the December incident. The case is currently under investigation.

[Photo by Sam Robinson/Getty Images]