Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mixed Messages

Earlier this week, the chief of the State Administration of Work Safety said "poor planning" was to blame for the 172 miners still trapped underground in the Huayuan mine in Xintai, East China's Shandong Province. There are nine other miners trapped in another mine with no latest reports.

This is a complete 180 degree turn from what other government officials said previously, blaming the accident on "natural disasters".

A China Daily article on August 22 says:

Preliminary analysis of experts showed the coal mine flooding which has trapped 181 miners at two pits in East China's Shandong Province since Friday is a natural disaster, Minister of Civil Affairs Li Xueju said at a press conference on Wednesday.

"China currently has no compensation system for people killed and injured in natural disasters," Li said.

In a China Daily story published today, safety chief Li Yizhong had a different opinion:

"The root is some local authorities and companies have failed to take sufficient action to tackle safety loopholes and build a sound early-warning mechanism," the chief of the State Administration of Work Safety said on Tuesday.

Learning from these "bloody lessons" will prevent "accidents triggered by natural disasters," Li said.

In a circular issued last Friday the State Council urged mines that risk being flooded to stop production when typhoons land or there is torrential rain.

The circular also asked mine owners to identify hidden natural dangers and remove them.

The Provincial government now admits that the 172 trapped miners will not be found alive, three weeks after floodwater filled the main shaft.

During the rescue effort, officials said they would pump water out as fast as they could, but an expert commented that with the pump they were using, it would take at least 10 days to pump a million cubic metres of water out.

This is a sad story because officials didn't keep the families abreast of the situation, leaving them frustrated and venting their anger by breaking windows of the mining company's offices.

Domestic reporters were told to leave the accident site by their bosses, and editors were told to get the latest news from Xinhua, the official state media.

Damage control is difficult to do in life and death situations. But no matter how ugly the circumstances may be, people need to know the truth.

It makes the bitter pill a bit easier for everyone to swallow.

1 comment:

ks said...

when disaster strikes the blame game begins. this can be applied all over the world. but one thing for sure - china has the worst disaster record in mining. life is too cheap in china. it needs to be corrected asap before too many lives are lost.