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'Torn open': Wind rips off parts of $2.8 billion terminal's roof at Beijing airport

Substandard construction work was blamed Thursday after wind blew parts of the roof off a $2.8 billion terminal at the world's second-busiest airport.
Image: Terminal 2 at Beijing Capital International Airport in 2008
A train undergoes testing on the line leading to Terminal 3 of the Beijing Capital International Airport on February 21, 2008. The terminal was designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster. Goh Chai Hin / AFP/Getty Images file
/ Source: staff and news service reports

Substandard construction work was blamed Thursday after wind blew parts of the roof off a $2.8 billion terminal at the world's second-busiest airport.

One of the architects behind Beijing Terminal 3, which opened in time for the 2008 Olympics, told the Associated Press that inadequate materials or installation — not design flaws — were to blame for Tuesday's structural failure.

The airport is the result of a frenetic Chinese building boom that has produced numerous architectural marvels, though some of the iconic new projects have been hit by quality and safety problems.

"Though I stood pretty far away, I could see a part of the roof was torn open. The white foam composite was everywhere, even on the runway," a passenger surnamed Li , which had pictures of the damage.

In statements issued earlier this week, the airport said no one was hurt and operations were not affected.

It was the second time in a year that wind damaged the airport, .

'The design was perfect' Beijing airport handled nearly 74 million passengers in 2010, making it the second-busiest in the world after Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with 89 million passengers, according to Airports Council International.

"If the products provided by the suppliers were not up to their highest standards, or if the individual items were not installed properly, then this kind of thing could happen," said Shao Weiping, an architect with one of the firms that collaborated on the structure, the Beijing Architectural Design and Research Institute.

Shao said he was "very confident that the design was perfect and involved no mistakes or flaws."

Terminal 3 was designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster. The Hong Kong office of Foster & Partners didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

A man with the airport's press office refused to comment on the incident or give his name, and referred to the airport's earlier statements.

Last year, Ding Jiangang, deputy head of the capital airport's expansion project command, said the roof was designed to resist winds of 28.3 meters (93 feet) per second, China Daily reported.

However, he said that the building's capacity to resist wind was previously only tested under simulated conditions, which could differ slightly from an actual situation. 

He stressed the importance of maintenance, but also added that the roof area was too large for maintenance workers to make sure every screw on the metal panels was tightened after five years' use.

China's multi-trillion dollar building boom has produced high-speed trains, smooth new superhighways, cruise terminals and airports. But many of the projects, built quickly to meet deadlines that often appear geared toward political grandstanding, have suffered quality and safety problems.

Two bullet trains crashed on July 23, killing 40 people and injuring 177. In 2009, a blaze at the Beijing construction site of the new headquarters for CCTV, China's main television network, gutted a luxury hotel and killed a firefighter.