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Worker Trapped 3 Days in Undersea Pipe

Monday, November 22, 2010

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A Chinese offshore worker has been rescued after spending 80 hours in an underwater steel shaft that was crushed by tidal pressure, authorities said.

Fan Shengjia, 43, became trapped about 9 a.m. Thursday while working in the one-meter-wide (about 39 inches) shaft in Jiaxing Harbor on China's east coast, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported Monday.

PSN_11.23_PipeWorker

Xinhua/Huang Zongzhi

Fan Shengjia is put onto a stretcher at the site of the accident in Jiaxing, after he was rescued from a crushed pipe nearly 60 feet underwater.

Buckled ‘Like a Beverage Can’

Fan was working at the bottom of the shaft, called a steel shielding canister, when the canister deformed under a sudden increase of hydraulic pressure from flood tide, according to local media. The shaft twisted and buckled “like a beverage can” under tidal pressure, but did not fracture, leaving an opening of about 3 cm (about one inch) at the top, Chinese authorities said.

The shaft, also described as a barrel, was part of an offshore operation platform and was connected to a cement column.

Rescuers spent more than 70 hours cleaning silt from the equipment and cutting the cement column off the seabed so the barrel could be lifted from the sea.

Food, including ham sausages and drinking water. were supplied to Fan through a flexible pipe, and a psychiatrist was called in to assist him, the news agency said. Fan also asked for some cigarettes, and his family prayed for him from the harbor bank.

187 Deaths Daily

Footage on China Central Television showed workers cutting Fan out with a blowtorch on Sunday after raising the section of pipe out of the sea. He was shown being lifted onto a stretcher and being rushed to a Pinghu City hospital, but reports said he suffered no serious injuries.

China is considered one of the world’s most dangerous places to work, with an average of 187 people killed in work-related accidents each day in the first half of this year, according to government figures.

Jiaxing Harbor is part of the busy Jiaxing Port Economic Development Zone south of Shanghai, which serves the light and high-tech industries as well as the marine, chemicals, building materials, and other segments of heavy industry.

   

Tagged categories: Offshore

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (11/23/2010, 8:34 AM)

If the pipe buckled from a simple and obviously expected condition like a tide, it is pretty obvious that it was dramatically under-specified and was the wrong tool for the job.


Comment from Timothy Werbstein, (11/23/2010, 8:50 AM)

I'm curious about the source of the Chinese statistic of "187 people killed in work-related accidents each day." The UN's International Labor Organization has no data from China.


Comment from Mary Chollet, (11/23/2010, 10:31 AM)

The number comes from the French news agency Agence France-Presse, which quotes "government figures." Unfortunately, it does not indicate which government. As you imply, reliable numbers from the Chinese government are difficult to obtain and historically unreliable. A 2009 study by a Chinese university reported "official" figures from the Chinese State Work Accident Briefing (SWAB) system, which acknowledged 7,046 worker fatalities in a two-year period beginning in March 2001. With the boom in Chinese construction since then, the figures are widely believed to have skyrocketed. Even the 2009 Chinese study notes that the ILO estimates that the true figures regarding worker fatalities are "substantially higher than the estimates derived from the SWAB system."


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