One of China's top work safety officials warned the nation's enterprises on Friday they will face closure if they fail to protect their employees.
Wang Dexue, vice-director of the State Administration for Safe Production Supervision, made the warning hot on the heels of the release of figures showing that a total of 60,292 people were killed in the first six months of the year in 487,402 accidents across the country.
The number of accidents is 64,000 fewer than the same period last year, and the death toll is 4,346 less.
Urging enterprises to improve their work safety record, Wang warned: "Those who fail to do so will be shut down."
The work safety situation in the first half of the year remained stable as a whole, but was serious in some regions and industries, Wang said in Beijing.
Seven especially severe accidents causing 30 or more fatalities each occurred in the first half of the year, killing 349 people. The number of such accidents is four more than in the same period last year.
Very severe accidents that claim 10 or more lives each have not been effectively brought under control in industries such as coal mining, road traffic and waterborne traffic, Wang said.
For example, 23 very severe accidents occurred in coal mines, accounting for 33.8 percent of the total number of such accidents. The accidents killed 534 people, 43.2 percent of the whole death toll.
During the first half of the year the administration also made efforts to punish those responsible for accidents, Wang said.
He said 23 people had been punished for a coal mine blast in North China's Shanxi Province on March 22, which killed 72 people and injured four.
The punished include Meng Zhaokang, the manager of the Mengnanzhuang Coal Mine in Luliang Prefecture, who was held criminally responsible.
The coal mine was fined more than 21.1 million yuan (US$2.5 million), which is the largest fine in recent years for a mining accidents.
Wang said the administration and safe production supervision departments at all levels will strengthen their work.
Wang said that if one non-licensed mine is found in a township or two such mines are found in a county, senior officials in the township or the county will take responsibility, he said.
In another development, 12 people were killed by a traffic accident in Jingchuan County in Northwest China's Gansu Province on Thursday afternoon.
According to Wang Peilin, the county's transport police chief, the 38 injured by the accident are all in hospital and in a stable condition.
He added that the accident took place when a truck crashed into a bus from behind, causing the bus to fall off the road.
(China Daily July 26, 2003)