Thirty-two people died in two separate accidents in China yesterday in a rural area explosion and a construction accident.
In the first of the incidents, a blast occurred at 1:12am in the village of Donggancheng, Henan Province, Xinhua news agency reported.
“Fifteen people died and nine were injured,” an official with the Henan provincial work safety bureau said, speaking by telephone and giving only his surname, Huang.
While rescue work had already been completed by noon yesterday, investigations were launched into why the tragedy took place.
One report from Xinhua suggested the explosion was related to illegal storage of detonators, adding that police were targeting unidentified people suspected of having broken safety regulations.
Explosives are widely available in the Chinese countryside, where they are used for construction work, and deadly accidents happen frequently.
In the day’s second serious incident, 17 people died after a construction elevator crashed to the ground on a building site.
The accident happened at about 7:30am in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province, state media and officials said.
“Sixteen people died when the lift crashed and two were seriously injured,” an official at the Changsha work safety bureau surnamed Guan said.
“One of the two injured later died in hospital,” Guan said.
He said the cause of the accident was still under investigation.
China has experienced a construction boom in recent years and new buildings continue to be erected at a brisk pace despite the global economic crisis.
China’s work safety record is notorious and thousands of people die every year in mines, factories and on construction sites, official sources indicate.
Partial data from the State Administration of Work Safety showed that 1,942 died in large work-related accidents in the period from Jan. 1 to Dec. 14.
The administration said 99 people lost their lives on construction sites over the period, while it did not give a figure for deaths caused by explosions.
The figures are likely to amount to a drastic understatement of the real extent of safety problems at Chinese work places, as they do not include fatalities from smaller incidents.
Official data also gives an overly rosy picture because many accidents are covered up by local officials worried that they may be punished for flawed supervision.