Thirty-five people have been confirmed dead in a notorious coal mine accident in north China's Hebei Province that was covered up for almost three months, the local government said on Friday.
The accident happened at 8:30 a.m. on July 14 at Lijiawa Coal Mine in Yuxian County, when explosives illegally stored in the pit ignited, killing 34 miners and a rescue worker.
Most of the victims were migrants from Chongqing Municipality and Sichuan Province in the southwest, investigators said.
The mine owners hid the bodies and silenced the next of kin with cash compensation and threats. Some village and county officials also collaborated with the mine owners to cover up the tragedy, said Hu Chunhua, acting governor of Hebei Province.
The cover-up infuriated witnesses and the victims' families, some of whom filed complaints to the State Administration of Work Safety and sought justice by posting the truth on the Internet.
Their complaints prompted the central government to investigate the accident, which was revealed to the public on Oct. 7.
Hu said 25 officials had been sacked for the cover-up, including three top officials in Yuxian County, local work safety chief, village heads and police officers who harbored the mine owners. Twenty-two of them were prosecuted.
Police have also detained the mine owners, three brothers named Li Chengkui, Li Xiangkui and Li Fakui.
Investigators said the mine had been operating for years without any license, and was just one of the illegal mines owned by the Li brothers.
(Xinhua News Agency October 24, 2008)