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16 officials in court for accident cover-up
Updated: 2004-11-29 01:23

Sixteen officials in Handan County, Hebei Province, are being prosecuted for abuse of power in connection to the cover-up of a major coal mine explosion in June.

The gas blast took place at the Hongda Colliery of Handan County around 8 am on June 3. The mine falls under jurisdiction of the city of Handan.

The blast killed 14 miners, injured another 23 and caused losses of 2.07 million yuan (US$249,400).

However, the coal mine owner, who feared that reporting the real number of casualties would lead to the mine being shut down, collaborated with some local officials to cover up the death toll. He told investigators that only one person died.

Local media reports indicating a cover-up led the government to re-start the investigation into the accident and the police also stepped in.

The Hebei Provincial People's Procuratorate said the officials facing charges include eight from production safety offices, two with the Handan County Bureau of Land Resources, four officials with the crematory of Yongnian County, as well as two officials from Kangzhuang Township of Handan County have been prosecuted.

Among them are Yu Zhanhai, director of Handan County of Production Safety and also head of the Handan County Office for Administration of Coal Industry, who is suspected of being lax in monitoring the Hongda Coal Mine, which had been ordered to suspend production; Chen Wuzhan, leader of the coal mine rescue operation detachment with the Handan City Bureau of Production Safety, who failed to send rescue workers down and search the passages for survivors but took the coal mine owner's word that there were no more miners trapped.

Zheng Jianchang, deputy head of the crematory of Yongnian County near Handan County, and three other officials with the same organization were also prosecuted for violating burial regulations and cremating the dead bodies of five miners killed in the coal mine accident without permission from the local public security department.

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