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68 officials punished for deadly accidents
By Xie Ye/Guo Nei (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-14 22:47

Punishments of those responsible for three serious accidents that killed more than 300 in recent accidents were reported to the public after a State Council meeting Wednesday in Beijing, while leaders urged that prevention work to prevent similar accidents be strengthened.

Two children, whose eyes were harmed by the toxic fumes from the fatal gas blowout, are seen in Chongqing.[Filephoto/Xinhua]
Investigations showed that all three accidents were caused by slack management and imperfect safety measures and that relevant officials should be held accountable.

As suggested by the investigation teams, 68 people found responsible face punishments, among whom 13 will be turned over to judicial bodies. Another 55 will receive party or government disciplinary actions.

The most deadly of the three accidents occurred on December 23, 2003 in rural Kaixian County in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality when a China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) gas well exploded and released toxic gas.

As many as 243 villagers were poisoned to death and a large number of animals were killed.

Another accident happened in Beijing's suburban Miyun County on February 5 at 7:45 pm in Mihong Park, where thousands of people were celebrating the traditional Lantern Festival, which falls on the fifteenth day of the first Chinese lunar month and is regarded as the last day of Spring Festival.

One spectator stumbled on a bridge, resulting in a stampede that caused many others to fall and be trampled to death. Many of the victims were crushed and suffocated by the crowd. In all, 37 died.

A fire engulfs the Zhongbai Commercial Plaza in the city of Jilin in Northeast China's Jilin Province, killing 53 people and injuring 71 others.[newsphoto]
The last major incident had seen 53 victims killed on February 15 by a fire at the Zhongbai Department Store in Jilin City in Northeast China's Jilin Province.

The deadly blaze started at 11 am on the second floor of the department store, where crowds of people were doing weekend shopping. It also injured 70.

CNPC General Manager Resigns To Take Blame 

The State Council meeting accepted CNPC General Manager Ma Fucai's resignation, after he accepted blame. Ma had been asking to resign since the natural gas well blowout occurred.

The meeting, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, also demanded that Beijing municipal government, Jilin Province and the CNPC levy severe punishment on those responsible for the three accidents.

The meeting covered punitive actions to be taken against those deemed responsible for three major accidents last year, including the gas blast at CNPC's facility near southwestern China's Chongqing that killed 243 people.

The State Council blamed CNPC's slack management on safety controls during production as the major reason for the disaster. Ma is replaced by Chen Geng, currently deputy general manager of CNPC and president of PetroChina.

Jiang Jiemin, the deputy governor of Qinghai Province, is named as deputy general manager of CNPC. Jiang, 50, had worked as the assistant general manager of CNPC, and vice-president of PetroChina before he moved to Qinghai last year. Both Chen and Jiang have been working in the oil industry for three decades.

Chen said at an internal company meeting that the company should work together to push through its development plan.

China National Petroleum Corp has said it plans to double its revenue to US$83 billion by 2010 by expanding the overseas oil and gas business and boosting natural gas production.

The company plans to increase its total oil production to 133 million tons by 2010, as compared with 118 million in 2002. Overseas production will be the major force for boosting production.

By 2010, the natural gas output is expected to triple to 70 billion cubic metres over production in 2002.

Shares of PetroChina dropped 3.1 per cent to HK$3.88 yesterday on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Analysts said the impact of the management reshuffling at CNPC is unlikely to rock PetroChina's performance. But they also said production costs may increase as the company spends more to reinforce its supervision of production safety.

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