CHINA> Regional
'Sunken village' is ready to build a new future
Updated: 2009-12-12 10:38

A village that disappeared into a giant sinkhole caused by mining excesses will be rebuilt, officials said Friday.

The reconstruction of the community in Hunan province means its 154 inhabitants will soon get new roofs over their heads, thanks to the government-funded plan.

Guoguang village in Baiguo township was severely damaged after subsidence caused by rampant gypsum mining damaged 33 homes and completely destroyed 10.

The government of Hengshan county, Hunan province, will cover the cost of the rebuilding, said Zhang Renjun, deputy head of the county government.

The villagers will be financed in the repair or rebuilding of their homes while the county construction bureau will choose safe sites and draft reconstruction plans, Zhang said.

Villagers from damaged homes were all evacuated to temporary homes after the disaster.

So far, each household has received a 200-yuan ($29) subsidy. The government is planning further compensation, he said.

No one was injured but about 150 mu (10 hectares) of land has been affected by the subsidence, which started on Nov. 28 and is continuing.

Experts with the provincial geological environment supervision department are studying the area, which has been cordoned off and is being patrolled around the clock by police.

At its deepest point, the subsidence measures 1.5 meters. There are cracks on some buildings several inches wide.

"I saw my house collapsing. I could do nothing but cry," said Xie Dongxu, who was playing outdoors with his grandson at the time.

Excessive mining of gypsum, which is used to make cement and plaster, is being blamed, Zhang said.

The State-owned Hengshan County Gypsum Mine, which is located below the village, began operation in 1958. It had three work areas, but the county government permanently closed the No. 1 and 2 areas in May, Zhang said.

Early this year, villagers went down the shaft and were surprised to find a huge underground cavity.

The township had abundant gypsum deposits, but was unsuitable for large-scale mining, Zhang said.

"The ground surface here is as thin as 47 meters and any further excavation could lead to geological hazards."

After the subsidence, the mine and three others nearby suspended operations.

"We will identify the people responsible as soon as possible," Zhang said.