Jilin governor apologizes for fatal blaze
The central government of China has ordered a nationwide emergency safety check after two fires in Jilin and Zhejiang Provinces killed more than 90 people on Monday. Hong Hu, governor of Jilin Province, apologized on February 16 for the devastating fire.
A State Council meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday said inspection of safety and fire-prevention measures would be carried out in enterprises, department stories, government offices, schools, hospitals, and entertainment facilities.
A statement by the cabinet issued on Tuesday said "the focus of the inspection is to ensure that all units have work-safety systems and mechanisms, and that a personnel responsibility system has been implemented."
Premier Wen pointed out that as remedial measures, officials and other persons responsible for major fires and other mishaps must be penalized, and that "the right lesson must be drawn from the disasters."
For the past six months, provinces and cities have been told to set up a "rapid response emergency office" whose goal is to ensure rescue teams arrive at the scene of an accident without delay -- and measures be immediately taken to pacify the relatives of the dead and injured.
Moreover, governors and mayors of regions hit with a particularly atrocious accident have to take political responsibility.
While inspecting the charred ruins of the Jilin department store where at least 53 perished on Sunday, Jilin Governor Hong Hu admitted his staff had failed to do an adequate job of ensuring fire-safety regulations in public places and apologized for this fatal accident on two occasions on Monday.
"I have not done my job well," Hong said. "The lesson from this accident is very severe."
Despite pledges to tighten and increase regulations, fires, mining accidents, bus and other transport disasters kill scores of people each week.
The most major incident in recent months left over 200 people dead when a gas well blew out in the country's southwest in December, spewing toxic fumes across nearby villages.