The world’s longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge in China’s scenic Zhangjiajie mountains has closed only 13 days after its opening – after attracting too many visitors.
Local government officials said the closure was because maintenance was needed on the 430-metre-long, 6-metre wide bridge, hanging 300 metres above the ground in Hunan province, after the trial opening ended on Friday.
Visitors to the bridge in the cloud-shrouded mountain region that reportedly inspired the landscapes in James Cameron’s Hollywood film Avatar – were to have been limited to 8,000 per day. But more than 10,000 people were going each day, Xinhua said.
It has not been decided when to reopen the bridge, paved with 99 panels of three-layer transparent glass, which links two different mountains. But Xinhua said the site would continue to be open only to visits by groups of tourists that had made bookings before the announcement of the closure.
However, the decision to suspend its opening to the general public has raised doubts among social media users about the bridge’s safety and also the government’s ability to manage such an attraction.
“There were so many people [in the area] a few minutes after we stepped on the bridge that staff asked us to hurry up and move on and leave the bridge,” one tourist, who visited a week ago, wrote on Weibo.
“This scenic area also lacks supporting facilities and is really incapable of receiving tourists. We queued for about two hours for a boat. It was so crowded that I feared there was going to be a stampede,” the tourist added.
However, an official at Zhangjiajie’s Cili county, where the Unesco world heritage site is located, said the bridge was still safe for visitors and that the purpose of the closure was simply to carry out work to improve the area’s overall environment.
“We want to use more than 10 days to upgrade the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon scenic area’s facilities and improve the environment,” he told news website Eastday.com. The work would include road maintenance and renovation of parking spaces, he said.
A ticket to the bridge costs 138 yuan (HK$160). Visitors cannot carry any belongings with them except for their wallets or mobile phones, and are forbidden from wearing high-heeled shoes.
Officials said no more than 600 people could stand at one time on the bridge, which was designed by Israeli architect Haim Dotan.
Before the opening, officials held events to prove the bridge’s safety; people tried to smash the glass panels with a sledgehammer and a car with 11 people was driven over the bridge.