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Deadly N. China landslide investigated
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The State Council, China's Cabinet, is launching an investigation into a landslide that killed 44 people in the northern Shanxi Province in August.

A 49-member team, headed by State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) deputy director Wang Dexue, consists of senior officials from the Ministry of Supervision, Ministry of Land and Resources, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Shanxi provincial government.

The landslide toppled a waste dump of a local iron mine and buried Sigou Village on Aug. 1. Its severity was initially down played by local authorities.

Eleven bodies were found Aug. 16, and the death toll given by the local government stopped there. Families complained at least 30 others had been trapped under more than 800,000 cubic meters of rocks and waste from the mine.

After public anger over the accident grew, the central government sent investigators to Loufan September 20.

Rescue work has now ended and the final death toll stands at 44, the Taiyuan city government said during a meeting with the central government investigation team Monday.

During a site survey of the iron mine on Sunday, Wang Dexue said the accident was a result of human error. Workers at the iron mine dumped too much waste on loose earth and local safety authorities failed to evacuate villagers in time.

The exact number of people trapped in the landslide was unknown for weeks because most of the victims were migrants and were not registered at the local public security bureau.

The official website of the Loufan county government said Sigou village had 276 migrants as of November 2007, including 150 from the northwestern Gansu Province and 56 from the neighboring county of Jiaocheng.

They made about 100 yuan (US$14) a day by collecting pieces of iron ore from the dump and reselling them.

The waste dump, within 200 meters from the village, belongs to Jianshan Iron Mine. It was operated by Taiyuan Iron and Steel (Group) Company Ltd.

Chinese law states, such dumps should be at least 500 meters from residential areas and should have embankments or walls to contain dust or prevent landslides. The dump near Sigou, however, had none.

The Loufan county government had planned to relocate Sigou Village but villagers and mine authorities could not agree on compensation. Villagers said the newly planned village didn't have enough arable land to sustain farmers.

Loufan county is about 97 kilometers from Taiyuan's city center.

(Xinhua News Agency October 6, 2008)

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