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First Month Sees Fewer Accidents
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Sixty-nine people have been killed in major workplace accidents in the first 22 days of this year, according to work safety officials.

However, the numbers of deaths and accidents is lower than the same period last year, the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) reported Monday.

The administration attributed the drop to firm measures taken to better safeguard the safety of people's lives and assets.

However, some work safety experts said it might be too early to predict a substantial improvement in the troubled workplace safety situation, which each year sees more than 100,000 people killed in various accidents.

On January 5 a mine gas explosion in east China's Anhui Province killed 12.

The blast occurred while the mine was under construction. Two of the dead were gas density inspectors, and the other 10 were construction workers.

On January 6, a fishing boat off Dongfang in south China's Hainan Province lost contact with shore and all 12 fishermen on board remain missing, according to the SAWS website.

On January 20, a gas pipeline caught fire and exploded in the city of Meishan in Sichuan Province, killing 10 people and injuring another 50.

A major accident means an accident that kills at least 10 people.

Last year, SAWS launched a nationwide campaign to shut down unqualified coal mines and eradicate conspiracies between officials and colliery owners.

By last Friday, 2,235 corrupt officials had been smoked out for illegally investing in coal mines, and more than 11,000 coal mines were asked to suspend production due to safety concerns, according to officials.

In a recent case, Peng Guocai, an official in charge of work safety supervision who was also a colliery owner, was given five years imprisonment for his role in a coal mine gas explosion in Qitaihe, Heilongjiang Province on March 14 last year, Xinhua reported yesterday.

The accident killed 18 miners and left another severely injured, reports said.

Peng, who is the vice-director of the city's Taoshan District Bureau of Work Safety, was later found to have illegally invested in the coal mine, and to have shown a deaf ear to safety watchdog's warnings to suspend production.

However, work safety is just one corner of the problems facing the nation's mining industry, said Zhu Deren, vice-chairman of the China Association of Coal Industry, in an interview with China Daily.

"There should be an overall focus on resources and technology of the sector as well how to enforce the relevant laws and regulations the nation has drafted on work safety," said Zhu.

(China Daily January 24, 2006)

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