CHINA> Regional
Xiangfen landslide death toll climbs to 276
Updated: 2008-10-21 21:23

TAIYUAN - The death toll from a landslide in northern China last month climbed to 276 as more bodies were pulled from the debris, an investigation panel announced Tuesday.

The landslide, which happened on September 8 in Xiangfen county of the coal-rich Shanxi Province, was triggered by the collapse of an unlicensed iron ore dregs retaining pond.

The death toll was put at 267 on September 24. Nine more bodies have been recovered since then.

The disaster caused Meng Xuenong, the governor of Shanxi, to resign.

A total of 22 local officials have been arrested and will be prosecuted on charges of graft and dereliction of duty, said Wang Dexue, deputy director of the State Administration of Work Safety who heads the investigation panel on the disaster.

Among the detainees are Liu Shuyong, chief engineer of the provincial land resources department and Wang Gang, a local county environment safety inspector who visited the mine 17 times this year. According to the safety panel, both had full knowledge of the hazards at the dump, but took no action to prevent the occurrence of a major disaster.

Investigator Wang Dexue said the panel will carry out a thorough probe into the disaster and clearly demarcate responsibilities.

"We must dig into issues of corruption behind the accident and debunk any official-business collusion and under-the-table deals," he said.