Thirty-six people were killed when a gantry crane collapsed during erection at a Chinese shipyard this week.

The 600t-capacity crane collapsed at 7.55am on Tuesday 17 July while it was being erected at Hudong Shipbuilding Group’s yard in Shanghai’s Pudong district.

The 100m-span crossbeam had been raised 47m towards its final 80m height on the previous day and was tied off with steel cables for the night.

The Shanghai Daily newspaper reported that when lifting resumed at 7.30am the following morning, workers found the steel rope linking one leg and the crossbeam –weighing 3,000t – had come loose. It broke as they tried to repair it, causing the two legs to topple and the crossbeam to crash down, the newspaper said.

Other reports suggested that the beam fell as the cables were being loosened to allow lifting to resume.

An engineer on site, 33-year-old Tang Weigeng, was reported as saying: “I was standing on the crane’s crossbeam pulling a steel rope. Then it suddenly broke and I felt I was falling. He added that workers had seen the first signs of potential trouble on Monday evening. “They decided to make way for the crane on Tuesday morning by loosening the ropes which actually support a lot of weight,” he said, adding: “This caused the crane to tumble.” Nearly 20 of the casualties were employees of the shipyard and the rest were technicians and experts from the Shanghai Power Construction Engineering Co and Tongji University, which were responsible for installing the crane, the Shanghai Daily said.

The crane, designed and built in China, is the same design as one successfully installed in February in a shipyard in Jiangsu province, and another at a shipyard in Pudong’s Waigaoqiao district.

Hudong Shipyard is one of the city’s largest shipyards and was built in 1928.