MAC: Mines and Communities

China mine landslide kills 151 - many more feared dead / Mínima esperanza de encontrar supervivientes bajo el lodo en China

Published by MAC on 2008-09-16

China landslide kills 151, hopes fade for missing


11th September 2008

XIANGFEN, China - A landslide that unleashed a three-story wave of mud and iron ore waste at an illegal mining operation in China has killed at least 151 people and authorities fear the death toll could climb by hundreds more, state media said Thursday.

In a matter of minutes, the sludge inundated an entire village of 1,000 people and an outdoor market with hundreds of customers on Monday in Shanxi province's Xiangfen county, the China Daily newspaper reported, citing witnesses.

State media put the official death toll at 151 people.

One of the worst-hit areas was Yunhe, the village where the market was located. Yunhe sits in a valley at the foot of Tashan, the hill where the iron ore mine was operating.

Yunhe's 1,300 residents were mainly farmers of wheat, corn and other crops, but also supplemented their wages by providing transport to the nearby mines, according to a local government Web site's official description of the place.

Most of the customers of the outdoor market were migrant workers from the mine and residents of neighboring villages, with many buying food to prepare for an upcoming mid-autumn festival holiday, state media reported.

All that was left after the mudslide were a handful of two-story buildings on the fringe of the sludge, which spanned an area the size of four football fields.

Authorities will not say how many people are missing, saying an investigation is continuing. But news reports said hundreds may be buried in the mud.

"There's almost no hope of their survival ... they have been buried for three days under two meters (yards) of slush," Wang Jun, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, said in the China Daily report.

Wang said there could be several hundred people buried, according to the report.

But Huang Yi, a spokesman of the administration, told The Associated Press that Wang had not commented on the possible number of people buried.

Adding to difficulties in estimating the number of people missing was that most of the mine workers were migrants from elsewhere in Shanxi, as well as from Chongqing and central Hubei province.

More than 2,000 police, firefighters and villagers were mobilized in the search.

Officers were still visiting various households in the area and interviewing residents for a final tally on the number of people missing or buried, state news broadcaster CCTV said.

The figure could be known by the end of Thursday, according to Wang Qingxian, a Shanxi province spokesman cited in the report.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered "a thorough investigation" into the cause of the accident, the China Daily said.

A preliminary investigation showed the landslide was triggered by heavy rains that brought down a retaining wall at a waste dump operated by an illegal mine, said Wang Dexue, deputy head of the State Administration of Work Safety.

The disaster underscores two major public safety concerns in China: the failure to enforce protective measures in the country's notoriously deadly mines, and the unsound state of many of its bridges, dams and other aging infrastructure.

There are more than 9,000 mine waste dumps throughout China, and more than half of them operate without work safety permits, the CCTV report said.

China mud-rock flow death toll rises to 151


11th September 2008

TAIYUAN1 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from a rain-triggered mud-rock flow in north China's Shanxi Province rose to 151 as of Thursday afternoon, with 35 injured, the local rescue headquarters said.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, has set up an accident investigation team, including officials from the State Administration of Work Safety, Shanxi provincial government, Ministry of Supervision, Ministry of Land and Resources, and All China Federation of Trade Unions.

The team, headed by Wang Jun, the State Administration of Work Safety director, also invited the Supreme People's Procuratorate to assist in the investigation. After a preliminary investigation, the team believed it was an "accident of grave responsibility" resulting from the illegal operation of an unlicensed ore mine.

"It is the most grave accident that involves the largest death toll so far this year," Wang said. "The rising accidents disclose local governments' poor supervision on work safety. Those responsible must be dealt with seriously."

Police have detained 13 people who were held accountable for the accident, including board chairman of the Xinta Mining Company, the mine manager, a vice manager and an accountant.

The Communist Party chief and head of Taosi Township, and the work safety bureau director and chief engineer in Xiangfen County were dismissed for neglect of duty.

Shanxi Provincial Government Secretary-General Wang Qingxian said Internet claims that hundreds of people were missing were mere speculation. He promised timely and transparent updated casualty numbers.

Relatives of the dead will get 200,000 yuan (29,215 U.S. dollars) each as compensation, according to the provincial government.

Officials from Linfen City and Xiangfen County have been sent to the scene, helping the relatives identify the victims and apply for the compensation. So far, the families of 38 victims have been confirmed.

As of 8 p.m. Thursday, a rescue team of more than 3,000 people, with the aid of 160 excavators, were continuing the rescue operation.

However, the sludge at the scene made the rescue work even more difficult. "Every step got bogged down in the mud," said He Jianzhong, a rescuer from the fire brigade of Xiangfen County.

The injured, except one seriously hurt, were in stable conditions, doctors said.

The disaster happened around 7:50 a.m. Monday when the bank of a reservoir holding waste ore dregs burst at the Tashan Mine in Xiangfen County, Linfen City.

The ore dregs reservoir, built in the 1980s, was halfway up a mountain, about 50 meters above an office building, a marketplace and some residences. It was only 100 meters away from the nearest residence.

The mud, mixed with ore fragments, slid down the mountainside, washing away people, pushing the office building forward for 15 meters, and destroying the market and residences lying about 500 meters downstream.

Chen Kexiang, a survivor of the accident, saw the bank burst while shopping at the market. "The reservoir collapsed abruptly, just like an explosion."

In total, 268,000 cubic meters of sludge deluged over an area of 30.2 hectares.

Rescue work is underway and the specific number of people trapped underneath the rubble is still under investigation.

Mínima esperanza de encontrar supervivientes bajo el lodo en China

11th Septiembre 2008

PEKÍN (AFP) - Las autoridades chinas estimaban prácticamente nulas las posibilidades de encontrar supervivientes bajo de la riada de rocas y barro que ha dejado al menos 128 muertos en la provincia de Shanxi, norte del país, afirmaba este jueves la prensa oficial.

"Varios centenares" de personas podrían haber sido sepultadas el lunes en el deslizamiento sobre una ciudad de un millar de habitantes de una riada de rocas y lodo, provocada por el hundimiento de un depósito de residuos en una mina ilegal, declaró Wang Jun, responsable de la Administración de la Seguridad Laboral. "No queda prácticamente ninguna esperanza de que hayan sobrevivido. Fueron sepultados hace tres días", agregó el responsable, citado por The China Daily.

El deslizamiento de tierras en Taoshi, cerca de la ciudad de Linfen, por efecto de las lluvias, se llevó por delante un mercado, casas, un edificio de tres plantas y una escuela, en ese momento vacía.

Según The China Daily, unas 2.200 personas participaban el miércoles en las operaciones de rescate en el lugar de la catástrofe, de varios cientos de metros de ancho y varios kilómetros de longitud.

La administración de seguridad laboral responsabilizó a la dirección de la mina, y nueve de sus responsables fueron detenidos, incluido el director.

Como ocurre a menudo en China, la mina operaba de forma ilegal y el depósito de residuos superaba ampliamente su capacidad, afirmó Wang Dexue, número dos de la Administración de Seguridad Laboral.

Muertes por deslave desata la furia en China

10 de septiembre, 2008

Por Ben Blanchard

TASHAN, China (Reuters) - Furiosos residentes protestaron mientras rescatistas en el norte de China buscaban el miércoles a docenas de víctimas aún desaparecidas, dos días después de que una avalancha de lodo de una colapsada represa de deshechos mineros causó la muerte de al menos 128 personas.

La cifra de muertos por el muro de lodo que arrasó un mercado y sumergió algunos edificios hasta sus techos se había más que duplicado con respecto a estimaciones previas, a 128, dijo el miércoles la televisión estatal.

Un reporte anterior en el sitio de internet de la radio estatal señaló que "varios cientos" estaban desaparecidos, aunque no dio mayores detalles.

El lodo cubría campos y viviendas en varios kilómetros bajo la mina de Tashan, mientras que cientos de rescatistas pasaban por encima de prendas de ropa, muebles y árboles arrancados que sobresalían en las secciones más secas, y utilizaban excavadoras para cavar en los restos.

Muchas de las víctimas eran aparentemente trabajadores migrantes del sudoeste de China. Podría ser más difícil calcular la cantidad de muertos y desaparecidos porque no tienen familiares en el área.

Docenas de amigos y familiares a la espera de noticias de las personas que se teme están atrapadas eran mantenidas a distancia del sitio por la policía, y algunos acusaban a las autoridades de fría incompetencia.

"No es por la lluvia. No fue un desastre natural, fue hecho por el hombre," dijo un trabajador migrante llamado Zhang, quien agregó que uno de sus amigos probablemente murió.

"Familias enteras han desaparecido. Tantos están muertos. ¿Por qué no están retirando a nuestros familiares?," gritó Zheng Xiongmei, una mujer de edad madura, a un funcionario local.

El Gobierno chino tomó medidas extraordinarias para asegurar que la nación no tuviera problemas durante los Juegos Olímpicos de Pekín, en agosto. Pero este desastre, el primer gran accidente desde entonces, es un recordatorio de que las minas del país siguen siendo peligrosas.

Intensas lluvias provocaron la desintegración de una laguna de contención en la mina de hierro, tras estar sobrepasada de deshechos mineros, apuntó una investigación inicial, según citaron medios estatales.

Los residentes de siete poblados cercanos se habían reunido en un mercado que fue enterrado por el alud, reportó Beijing News.

El jefe de propaganda del Partido Comunista en el condado de Xiangfen, en donde está ubicada la mina, rechazó los reportes de cientos de muertos como "rumores," pero se rehusó a estimar una cifra de víctimas.

(Escrito por Chris Buckley y Emma Graham-Harrison; Editado por Rodrigo Martínez)

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