08/30/2005, 00.00
CHINA
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Guangdong Governor admits responsibility for death of 123 miners

Miners were trapped in flooded mineshaft in early August. For the first time, a government official admits responsibilities to such disasters.

Beijing (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Guangdong authorities yesterday officially abandoned efforts to find the bodies of miners trapped at the flooded Daxing Colliery in Meizhou. Zeng Haiying, spokesman for the Meizhou government, said all 123 miners were now considered dead.

Earlier reports said the men were trapped when the colliery was flooded at the beginning of this month. Recovery operations were stopped to avoid serious subsidence likely caused by 23 days of pumping floodwater from the shafts. Only six bodies have been recovered so far.

Guangdong Governor Huang Huahua took responsibility for the disaster along with Guangdong Communist Party Secretary Zhang Dejiang. For the first time, a political leader admits responsibility for such an incident.

Mr Huang is said to have engaged in self-criticism at a prefecture-level meeting normally attended by party bosses and mayors.

Political experts stress that practising self-criticism "is a very serious thing" to do and "is different from saying you will take responsibility." But self-criticism within the administration might allow Huang to "save face".

In 2005, some 2,700 people died in mining accidents in China. Greedy mine owners who disregard safety regulations and requirements and complacent local authorities are the main culprits.

Following the most recent incidents in August, local authorities have started to crack down and have shut dozens of mines.

After recovery operations were called off for the 123 trapped miners, Zeng Haiying said the "next important task is to handle the compensation for relatives of the miners."

Although he declined to reveal how much each family would receive, it is understood that payouts of 200,000 yuan (around US$ 25,000) have been agreed.

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