The search for the missing Nigerian construction worker who plunged into sea after a work platform collapsed at the Hong Kong Zhahai-Macao Bridge construction site, ended on a grim end.
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The body of Onwuka Okomba Uka, 41, also known as ‘Emeka Igwe’ was found by divers near the seabed at 6.50 on Thursday night, March 30th, some 28 hours after the accident happened.
A helicopter, rescue boats were used for the search.
LIB recalls that Onwuka fell into the sea when the platform’s cables snapped and the structure collapsed on Wednesday, March 29th. He was disassembling the structure with two colleagues when the canvas belts supporting the platform broke. That sent the whole platform crashing into the sea.
The accident happened at the bridge section near Tai O, situated close to mainland waters. It was a dual three-lane viaduct that connects the Hong Kong-Zuhuhai-Macao main bridge from Hong Kong’s boundary to Scenic Hill on Airport Island
Only one worker was able to swim back to shore after the three fell into the water. Another worker surnamed Gurung, 22, was found about four hours after the incident, but was pronounced dead around 7:45pm after being rushed to North Lantau Hospital.
A worker was reported as saying that the three workers wore safety belts hooked to the platform; it was likely the two men who died were unable to release the belts and sank with the platform. Two other workers were at a nearby site at the time. They were injured by snapped cables, according to police.
Deputy Commissioner for Labour Jeff Leung Wing-yan said on an RTHK programme on Thursday that safety belts “should be attached to a suitable and secure anchorage rather than a work platform.”
The authorities inspected the construction site around 400 times last year, Leung said. He added that the government is investigating the incident, but could not give an estimate of how long the probe would take.
Meanwhile, the Highways Department has set up an independent investigation team – led by a deputy director – to probe the case and study how to improve safety measures. The team will submit a report to the department chief within three months. The department also said the relevant construction work had been suspended.
Onwuka, from Etiti-Ama Nkporo in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State was married to a Chinese woman and had a nine-year-old daughter.
His wife said her last contact with him was via a WhatsApp message at 11am on Wednesday. She later reported to police after his employer, a construction firm, failed to tell her anything about his whereabouts.
On Thursday, the relatives of the deceased met with representatives of the Highways Department and contractors to discuss compensation arrangements. They said the authorities were not transparent and the rescue effort was slow.
According to HK01, Onwuka’s relatives were not informed by the contractor of the incident, and were only able to contact Onwuka’s employer Thursday afternoon.
Since construction started in 2011, there have been several accidents at the project site. Before Wednesday’s incident, there have been eight fatalities on the site.