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Series of accidents haunt weekend
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-28 05:36

A fatal weekend featuring an explosion, a mine flooding and pollution leaks and poisonings pushed up the ever-climbing figure of accident casualties.

The flurry of accidents came as a senior official warned that the country's speeding development would further raise annual casualty figures, which currently average more than 1 million dead and injured each year.

As around-the-clock rescue efforts continue, 18 miners are still trapped underground after a mine flooding on Thursday at the Gaocun Coal Mine in Wu'an County, North China's Hebei Province.

Hopes are high that the miners are still alive as initial investigations indicated they were 40 metres above the flooded section of the mine shaft.

However, rescue work has been complicated by the fleeing of mine owners and technicians.

About 100 kilometres away, a miner survived a tunnel collapse this month by drinking his own urine after 11 days trapped underground at the Kangli Gypsum Mine.

On Friday afternoon, about 20,000 people were evacuated after a natural gas leak caused by a pipeline explosion in Kaixian County, Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.

The accident happened at Longmen Village at 3 pm. At 5 pm the danger was checked after the gas valve was turned off.

So far it's still unknown which company is responsible for the gas supply. The cause of explosion is under investigation.

The same county was affected in December 2003, when 243 villagers died from poisoning and a large number of animals were also killed after a China National Petroleum Corp gas well exploded and released toxic gas.

In Chongqing's rural Liangping County, 12 women workers and a factory owner were seriously injured when a firecracker factory exploded on Friday.

Initial investigations attributed the accident to the long-term exposure of explosives to sunlight.

In southern Shaanxi Province, toxic gas was released after a gas truck overturned on its way to Hanzhong from Xi'an, killing the driver. The road was closed and local villagers were told to move to safety after the leak.

In addition to river pollution in Northeast China, Central China's Hunan Province and Chongqing, the string of accidents provides further evidence for the government's conclusion that China is "a country where natural disasters and accidents frequently happen."

"The situation will worsen as China's pace of urbanization and industrialization speeds up," said Wang Jikun, deputy director of the General Affairs Office of the Ministry of Public Security, during a meeting at the weekend.

He said such accidents leave at least one million Chinese dead and injured every year, with economic losses reaching 650 billion yuan (US$80 billion), around 6 per cent of China's gross domestic product (GDP).

Last year was the most serious in terms of casualties. A total of 210,000 people died and 1.75 million were injured in 5.61 million accidents nationwide.

(China Daily 11/28/2005 page3)

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