Images of a man left clinging to a shattered glass suspension bridge that went viral in China are prompting calls for stricter safety measures across the country.
The Longjing city government announced on its official Weibo channel that a tourist had become trapped some 330 feet in the air at an attraction in the Piyan Mountain scenic area Friday, after historic high winds whisked away glass panes from the structure.
The man was stuck for over half an hour as 93 mph winds pummeled the bridge, authorities said. A photo showed the man clinging to the side of the bridge’s remaining metal structure with its glass floor largely missing or shattered.
The man was eventually able to climb back to safety unharmed after a joint rescue effort conducted by police, firefighters and forestry personnel, and was sent to hospital for physical and psychological evaluation, according to local officials.
The image was posted by the state news agency Xinhua and later recirculated by local media and netizens alike.
"Oppose glass suspension bridges!" said one widely shared comment on the story on Weibo on Monday. "They can very easily cause sudden cardiac death."
"It's a design flaw, the bridge will sway in the air with the wind," chimed another.
“It’s better to stop this kind of glass plank road. It’s too anti-human and has serious safety hazards,” read one top comment on Xinhua’s original post over the weekend.
In recent years, China has undergone a glass suspension bridge craze, as local authorities seek to entice thrill seeking tourists to its mountain reaches.
The longest glass-bottom bridge in the world is in Qingyuan, Guangdong province, and measures more than 1,726 feet long, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Xinhua reported that there were at least 60 glass bridges already built or under construction in China by the end of 2016, citing a magazine published by the Geological Museum of China. In 2019, however, state media outlet ECNS estimated that there were as many as 2,300 glass bridges and “an undetermined number of glass walkways and slides” across the country.
The logic-defying safety of these bridges has been a major selling point. In 2016, in southern China’s Hunan province, the local government launched a publicity campaign to promote its latest suspension bridge – at the time the longest and highest in the world - by inviting tourists to take sledgehammers to its glass panes. They then drove over the beaten panes with a SUV; 13 days later, the bridge was closed temporarily due to excess traffic.
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The accident at Longjing is the most recent of several disasters that have raised concerns that China’s breakneck tourism boom is happening at the expense of safety.
In March 2018, state television channel CCTV reported that northern Hebei province would close all 32 of its glass bridges for safety checks.
In 2019, a man died in Guangxi after heavy rainfall caused him to fall over the side of a slippery glass slide.
“After the incident, the scenic spot immediately adopted emergency measures, and the Longjing city government immediately launched an emergency response plan,” the local authorities said after Friday’s accident.
The scenic park has now been closed while authorities conduct safety checks.