05/26/2006, 00.00
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Shanxi: Government officials suspended after mine disaster

The Datong authorities have suspended the mayor of a village and the local Communist Party secretary, apparently because of corruption charges. Hopes for the survival of 57 miners trapped by the flooding have practically died out.  

Datong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The government has suspended two officials involved in investigations into the flooding of the Xinjing Coal Mine in Zuoyon County (Shanxi). Fifty-seven miners were trapped underground in the accident that has been described as the "worst mining disaster in recent years".

A government spokesman in Datong city confirmed that Liu Yongxin, Zhangjiachang village mayor, and Communist Party secretary, Chang Rui, had been removed from their posts but did not mention any specific accusations. Rumour has it that the two men accepted bribes to cover up the results of the inquiry into what caused the disaster.

All mines operating in the area had been ordered to stop production to allow rescuers to work as efficiently as possible; they have been pumping water from the shaft, but hold out little hope of finding survivors one week after the accident.

The central authorities have reiterated their determination to hold a major investigation into the mining practices of Xinjing and possible corruption involving other government officials, which allowed managers to vastly exceed the mine's safe production capacity. 

Mines are presenting an ever more urgent problem for Chinese leaders. According to official sources, in the course of a national campaign for occupational safety launched by Beijing, provincial governments have shut down 4,876 mines of illegal extraction and identified 952 members of the government

who – against Communist Party regulations – had invested in mining shares worth a total of 156 million yuan (more than 15 million euros).

In 2005, accidents across the country actually increased (+8.5% in the first nine months of the year compared to 2004, according to official figures) including the worst incidents to occur in the past 50 years.  In the first six months of 2006, the average death toll of such accidents was 16 people daily.

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See also
Hope fading fast for miners trapped in Shanxi
Inundated mine: 57 miners trapped, managers arrested
50 killed in yet another mine blast
Heilongjiang, 104 die in mine explosion. Police arrest relatives of victims
Shanxi: 153 trapped miners could die of hunger and thirst


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