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Chinese Province Closes All of Its Glass Bridges Amid Safety Concerns

Heart-stopping glass structures have become a craze in China, but some have been linked to injuries and fatalities

Not for the faint of heart, these destinations are meant to entice thrill-seeking tourists. (Photo by Zhang Haiqiang/Visual China Group via Getty Images)
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Between two steep cliffs in China’s Hebei province stretches the Hongyagu Bridge, a shudder-inducing structure built from thousands of panels of transparent glass. The bridge stretches for 1,600 feet and was, until recently, the world’s longest glass bridge—a title that was scooped this summer by another landmark in the Huangguoshu Scenic Area. But amid a series of disconcerting accidents around the country, Hebei has closed Hongyagu Bridge and all of its other glass attractions, reports Hannah Ellis-Petersen reports for the Guardian.

In total, the province shuttered 32 bridges, walkways and mountain viewing platforms, with the closures taking place over the past 18 months, according to the Independent’s Cathy Adams. But these represent just a small fraction of similar structures in China, where glass attractions have become a bonafide craze.

The country is home to 2,300 glass bridges and “an undetermined number of glass walkways or slides,” according to the state media publication ECNS. Not for the faint of heart, these destinations are meant to entice thrill-seeking tourists; special effects make one bridge in the province of Hubei, for instance, seem as though it is cracking beneath visitors’ feet. But there are real dangers associated with China’s glass structures, some of which have been linked to injuries and fatalities.

In Hubei in 2017, a tourist died due to an accident on a glass slide. Earlier this year, reports the BBC, six people were injured and one person died in the Guangxi province after falling from a glass side, which had become slippery in the rain; the man who died crashed through a guardrail and suffered lethal head injuries.

Another frightening incident occurred in 2015 in the province of Henan, where a glass bridge is suspended more than 3,500 feet over a canyon. Just two weeks after the site opened, one of its panes cracked, the damage reportedly caused by someone dropping a stainless steel mug onto the bridge. Only one of the pane’s three layers broke—but panicked tourists were sent scrambling.

According to the BBC, the Chinese government has called on local tourism officials to conduct “comprehensive safety assessments” of glass structures. But ECNS reports that Hebei has been the first to introduce “regional requirements on construction materials, design and visitor numbers” amid “a lack of national standards and supervision over such facilities.”

About Brigit Katz

Brigit Katz is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.

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