Everywhere you look these days, a subway line is going in. Right now there are four operational subway lines: the number 1, an east-west line in the south-central part of the city; the number 2, a ring that follows the old second ring road; the number 13, an elevated subway that loops way up into the northern suburbs and conveniently runs right past our apartment; and the Batong line, another elevated line that extends the number 1 far to the east. That’s 1, 2, and 13– so everything that comes between 2 and 13, one supposes, is to be built shortly. Before the 2008 Olympics, if possible. No wonder it seems like every intersection without a subway stop is currently under construction.
Yesterday, though, the number 10 line over on the east side of the third ring road ran into a slight problem. Namely, a large swath of the road above it collapsed (see the dramatic photos here) when sewer water leaked from a pipe in the street. According to the news, the construction workers building the no. 10 line noticed around 12:30 am (yes, they work around the clock) that the ceiling was soaked. They reported it to their supervisors and evacuated, and around 2 am the whole thing caved in. No one was hurt or killed.
The collapse of a major street is, um, a big deal in Beijing, where ordinary traffic is a hair-raising nightmare. Because of this collapse, 40 (count ¡®em, 40) buses have had to be re-routed, and the city took the unusual step of broadcasting the news over cell phone networks, asking Beijingers to stay away from that intersection. This is the first time that the government has used cell phones to broadcast a public service announcement. It seems like they¡¯ve hit on a very effective strategy to reach the public¡ªwe got the message, and I overheard other people talking about having gotten it too. In China, as in the US, newspaper and television audiences have fragmented as more and more options have become available (we get something like 38 TV channels), so maybe cell phones are a more universal audience. I wonder if we will soon see more of this kind of thing in the near future (I mean governmental cell phone broadcasts, not streets collapsing, though I wonder about that too).