Reuters

The explosive takedown of Wuham's 2.2-mile long viaduct was the longest concrete-bridge demolition in China's history.

How do you explode a 2.2-mile-long bridge in a residential district with no collateral damage?

Very carefully, it turns out – which is obvious when you think about it, but history is full of demolition jobs that somehow go horribly sideways. In the case of the Zhuan-yang viaduct, located in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan, the repercussions of a botched job were greater than usual. A poorly planned blast could send boulders of concrete through the windows of homes. Or it might rupture one of the many gas lines running beneath the span to create a mushrooming garden of enormous fireballs.

The engineers behind this weekend's behemothic bang-up had a primitive-sounding but effective solution to the bridge problem. They covered the structure with a cloth apron tied tight with wire. They then padded it with sandbags and huge bladders of water. The result was a soft armor that acted like a muffler when the bridge was finally blown, soaking up rubble and dust and preventing the billowing debris cloud that's followed some other lung-clogging demolitions.

The night explosion was the longest concrete-bridge demolition in China's history, according to ITV News. In a sign of how fast China is developing, the two-lane bridge, which was only about 16 years old, will soon be replaced with a six-lane highway that'll be a mile longer than the original. (For more images of the busted bridge, which fell in less than 20 seconds, check out the slideshow at China.org.)

Top photo by Reuters/Darley Shen

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    Trump to the Rust Belt: Move Somewhere Else

    The president told upstate New Yorkers to move to a red state with jobs, even as his planned budget cuts promise to make their lives more difficult.

  2. Design

    Where Edmonton Goes Next

    The city that hosted this year’s Habitat for Humanity build also wants to create a downtown that attracts people to stay around after the Alberta oil boom has faded.

  3. Transportation

    Do Driverless Cars Need Their Own Roads Around Manhattan?

    A concept for AV expressways promises to reduce travel times, but falls into an old trap of car-centric planning.

  4. Equity

    Why Jimmy Carter Believes Housing Is a Basic Human Right

    Richard Florida talks to the former president about housing, Habitat for Humanity, and how government assistance enabled their current success.

  5. Videos

    5 Ways to Seriously Battle Traffic

    So long as cars are among us, road pricing, ramp meters, and diamond-shaped intersections can mitigate horrendous commutes, a new video explains.