Helicopters seek survivors as South Korean bridge disaster toll reaches 48

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SEOUL - Rescue helicopters hover over the Han river yesterday after a span of the Songsu bridge collapsed during the morning rush hour. At least 48 people were killed and 17 injured. Commuters watched in horror as the central span of the four-lane bridge plunged into the river, taking with it up to 15 vehicles, including a fully-loaded bus.

The Prime Minister, Lee Yung Dug, offered to resign but his offer was rejected by President Kim Young Sam. He did, however, accept the resignation of the mayor of Seoul, Lee Won Jong. The cabinet agreed to award 4m won ( pounds 3,100) to each victim in the first instance.

Parliamentary questions were asked only last week about the safety of the 17 bridges that span the Han in Seoul. Kim Woo Suk, the Construction Minister, said there was no cause for concern. Kim Min Ja, a teacher whose car fell into the river, said: 'I felt the car shaking suddenly and something caving in, then I passed out.'

(Photograph omitted)