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Safety Checks Launched After Mine Blast Cover-up

Local authorities in Yan'an City of northwest China's Shaanxi Province launched coal mine safety investigations yesterday following the fatal colliery accident in Huangling County last week that was covered up for days.


The city government said all coal mines found to endanger safety would be instructed to halt production and those who refuse will face lawsuits. The decree also calls for severe penalties for mines operating illegally and owners of mines where fatal accidents occur.


Officials participating in the safety inspection will also be given harsh penalties if they are found to be involved in dereliction of duty.


The order was issued following the gas blast last Thursday at Qifenggouxi Coal Mine, which left 12 miners dead and two others injured.


The tragedy was kept secret for four days as the mine's management tried to settle it privately by offering 2.54 million yuan (US$306,600) in compensation to victims' families, according to a source with the local production safety department.


Local police have detained five people for covering up the accident: the head of the coal mine, He Mingshan, deputy heads in charge of production safety Zong Mingjun and Zhang Fayuan, and two workers Chen Jianlong and Wang Yongjie, who were in charge of gas inspection and safe production inspection.


Li Fengtao, deputy head of Huangling County Coal Industry Administration, Xu Wenlong, head of the Coal Safety Inspection Station, and Zong Mingxue, deputy head of Cangcun Township, who inspected the mine after the accident but made a false report, were suspended from their posts pending further investigation.


A source from Yan'an's city government said the probe into the cause of the accident will continue and those held accountable for the explosion will be punished according to law.


(Xinhua News Agency September 23, 2005)


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