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Two dead, two hurt in Dutch bridge accident

A local reporter at the scene said workmen had been hoisting bridge arches when the accident happened
A local reporter at the scene said workmen had been hoisting bridge arches when the accident happened - Copyright ANP/AFP -
A local reporter at the scene said workmen had been hoisting bridge arches when the accident happened - Copyright ANP/AFP -
Nick Gammon

At least two people died on Wednesday and two more were injured when part of a bridge under construction crashed down on workers in the Netherlands, Dutch officials said.

Part of the bridge was being hoisted into place in Lochem, in the east of the country, when the cables holding it in place snapped, sending it plummeting to earth.

An AFP reporter on the scene said a mobile command unit had been set up with police, engineers, and the fire brigade and drones circled overhead.

The authorities recovered the second body from the accident site after several hours.

One victim was from Belgium and the other Polish, the Dutch Labour Inspection Service told the NOS public broadcaster late Wednesday. The names and ages of the victims were not given.

Local mayor Sebastiaan van ‘t Erve said the whole community was shocked by the accident.

“We’ve been planning this road for 20 years. We’ve been developing the construction for five years. And then in just one day, the whole thing comes tumbling down, killing two people, injuring two others,” he told AFP.

The mayor said there was currently no indication as to what had caused the accident and that investigations were underway.

“My first priority is to stand by the people who have been affected by this terrible accident,” he said.

A reporter at the scene, from local newspaper De Stentor, said workmen had been hoisting the arches when the accident occurred.

“Suddenly there was a huge bang,” the reporter said.

“The entire arch started to swing. Then the whole thing fell down. We saw two construction workers fall down.”

– ‘Enormously shocked’ –

Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed his condolences to the relatives of the dead after what he called “tragic reports of a serious accident”.

Dozens of people were watching at the time for the moment the piece of the bridge was put into place — they are receiving psychological treatment.

Max Schurink, project manager of the Gelderland province where the building site is located, said he was “enormously shocked”, having seen the accident with his own eyes.

“I am seriously concerned for the colleagues who are on site,” Schurink told De Stentor. 

Schurink said conditions around the site were in order.

But he added: “Let’s not speculate about the cause.

“Concern now goes out to the employees affected by this accident. It’s dramatic enough.”

The regional safety authority said the two injured people had been rushed to hospital but were expected to survive.

“What happened is that they were trying to lift the bridge. You can see the cables. The bridge started to twist. That part of the bridge fell down to the ground,” Andre Meilink from the safety authority told NOS.

Such industrial accidents are rare in the Netherlands, which has strict construction codes and centuries of experience building canals, dams, and bridges.

In 2015, two large cranes working on a bridge toppled onto nearby houses and shops in the western town of Alphen aan den Rijn, but miraculously no one was hurt.

The cranes, working from barges, were renovating the Queen Juliana Bridge, a canal bridge dating from the 1950s, when the first machine went down.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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