Highway Collapse in Southern China Kills at Least 36 People

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An aerial photo shows rescuers work at the site of a collapsed road section of the Meizhou-Dabu Expressway in Meizhou, south China's Guangdong Province on Wednesday. Xinhua News Agency/AP

BEIJING (AP) — A section of a highway collapsed after heavy rains in southern China, sending cars tumbling down a slope and leaving at least 36 people dead, authorities said Thursday.

The Meizhou city government said that 23 vehicles have been found in a pit after a 17.9-meter (58.7-foot) long section of the highway gave way about 2 am on Wednesday. Thirty other people had injuries, none of them life-threatening, a government statement said.

Parts of Guangdong province have seen record rains and flooding in the past two weeks, as well as hail. A tornado killed five people in Guangzhou, the provincial capital, last weekend.

Some villages in Meizhou flooded in early April, and the city had seen heavy rain in recent days.

The ground beneath the highway appeared to have caved in, along with the section of the road above it. Witnesses told local media they heard a loud noise and saw a wide hole open up behind them after driving past the section just before it collapsed.

Video and photos in local media showed smoke and fire at the scene, with highway guardrails slanting down into the flames. A pile of blackened cars could be seen on the slope leading down from the highway.