Container ship hits bridge in south China, killing 5 and knocking section of roadway into the water

BEIJING (AP) — Five people died after a large container ship hit support pillars for a bridge over a river in southern China early on Thursday, sending a section of the roadway and five vehicles crashing down.

Three small trucks, a bus and a scooter fell off the bridge south of the city of Guangzhou, authorities said. The bus, the scooter and one of the trucks landed inside the empty ship, and the other two trucks fell into the water.

One side of the ship hit a bridge support and then the bow hit another pillar, causing a section of the bridge deck to collapse, authorities said, blaming it on “improper operation by the crew.”

The collapse of the Lixinsha Bridge also cut off water and access to an island that is home to about 8,000 people, mostly farmers, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Temporary water lines and a ferry service were set up for residents.

The bridge crosses a waterway near the mouth of the Pearl River, inland from Hong Kong. The area is one of China’s biggest manufacturing and transport hubs and contains two of the world’s five busiest ports, according to the World Shipping Council.

The dead included the driver of the bus, that of the scooter and three people in the trucks that went into the river, city officials said at a late afternoon news conference. There were no passengers on the bus.

Two other people were treated at a hospital for injuries and were in stable condition. A crew member on the ship had minor injuries.

Authorities detained the owner of the ship, according to Chinese media.

Officials said that reinforcement work, including collision guards around some of the bridge's pillars had been completed in 2022. Earlier reports said the work had been delayed, but officials explained that the project involved several bridges and the delays did not affect the Lixinsha Bridge.