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A Glass Bridge. Gale-Force Winds. A Moment of Terror High in the Air.

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Gusts blew out parts of a glass bridge’s flooring in northeast China, trapping a man and raising questions about the safety of similar hair-raising tourist attractions in the country.

Livia Albeck-Ripka

May 11, 2021

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A man who ventured out on a glass-bottom bridge in China’s northeast was left clinging to the side for dear life after gale-force winds blew away some floor panels, leaving gaping holes in the structure hundreds of feet above the ground, local officials said.

The episode occurred on Saturday at Piyan Mountain in Longjing, China, state media said, citing the city government. It spurred a frantic attempt to rescue the man, whom the authorities did not identify. He inched his way to safety, helped or coaxed — news accounts varied — by a rescue crew. A photo of what state media said was the moment of terror went viral.

The harrowing episode left many people in China deeply rattled, spurring discussions about what could have been a nightmarish ending and raising questions about the safety of many of the country’s glass bridges, walkways and viewing decks.

“This is exactly why I dare not step on a bridge like that,” one tourist identified as Wadetian wrote on Weibo, the Chinese social media site. “I broke out in a cold sweat just looking at it,” another user said.

The construction of glass-bottomed bridges has boomed in China in recent years, as part of a rush for hair-raising attractions that capitalize on the notion of construction that blends almost invisibly into the natural environment. The attractions have been swarmed in recent weeks by visitors as coronavirus fears have eased.

By some estimates, there are about 2,300 such bridges across the country. The longest, completed last year, stretches more than 1,700 feet across a gorge and rises over 650 feet in the air. One has a built-in swaying effect intended to take away the breaths of those who dare traverse it. Another is designed so that it seems and sounds as if it is cracking.

The Piyan Mountain bridge overlooks a bend in the Hailan River. Up to 1,500 people have crossed at a time, and the bridge is advertised as offering an experience akin to “hanging above a bottomless chasm.”

According to state media reports, around 12:45 p.m. Saturday, winds of up to 90 miles per hour tore through the picturesque tourist site, blowing out parts of the glass deck and trapping the man, described as a tourist.

Rescue workers were called to the scene. But after about 35 minutes, the reports said, he crawled to safety and was transferred to hospital for a psychiatric assessment.

The man was later released after his emotional and physical health “stabilized,” The Jilin Daily, the official provincial newspaper, reported, adding that the site of the accident had since been closed while inspectors checked for hazards.

In 2019, one person died and six others were injured after they flew off a glass slide in Guangxi in China’s south, leading the Chinese province of Hebei to close all 32 of its glass attractions. Another person died in a similar accident in 2017.

The previous year, a glass bridge in Zhangjiajie, at that time the world’s longest, was shuttered because of overcrowding after it had been open for less than two weeks. The Piyan mountain bridge was also closed after inspectors found cracks on a glass plate in 2018.

In recent years, the government has attempted to control the rush of glass bridge construction and strengthen safety inspections, and new standards for building the attractions started this month.

Chris Buckley and Yan Zhuang contributed reporting. Liu Yi contributed research.

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