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Up to ten die in crane collapse

A large gantry crane being used in the construction of the second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge on the Mekong River collapsed on Friday, killing Hiroshi Tanaka, 49, the Japanese chief engineer. An engineer from Laos, Keo-oudon Phonthita also died later in Hospital. Two Japanese, three Thai and five Lao engineers were injured.

Eight people Three Japanese, one Filipino and four Thais were swept away by the strong currents of the river later reports say that five bodies have been found while three are still missing.

The accident took place at about 4.45pm on Friday when a crane being used to deliver and install 5x10 metre concrete bridge sections, was reported to have bent and then suddenly buckled. The falling pieces of equipment hit about 30 engineers and workers at the construction site. Most of who then fell into the river.

The two kilometre bridge is being built by the Japanese construction firm Sumitomo and was due for completion in late 2006. It will link Mukdahan in Thailand with Savannakhet in Laos and is being financed by a long-term loan of 2.8 billion baht to Thailand and Laos by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.