Twelve officials have been jailed for negligence and abuses of power that led to at least 277 people being killed in a landslide in northern China last year, state media reported yesterday.
The Sept. 8 disaster in the northern province of Shanxi occurred when an illegal mine dumping pond burst, swamping a village of 1,000 people in a torrent of mud and sludge.
Investigations found the dumping pond had been built in violation of regulations and had almost no safety inspections, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the Xiangfen County court.
Eight land and resources officials, an environmental protection official and three township officials were handed jail sentences on Saturday ranging from one to five years, the report said.
Also on Saturday, Xia Zhengui (夏振貴), 53, former secretary of the Communist Party of China committee in nearby Linfen City, was dismissed from the National People’s Congress for his role in the disaster.
The accident led to the resignation of Shanxi Governor Meng Xuenong (孟學農) and the dismissal of Zhang Jianmin (張建民), Shanxi’s vice governor, last year.
Officials were suspected of “deliberately concealing” the discovery of bodies during initial rescue efforts to keep the death count down, state media previously reported, quoting the national work-safety administration.
Corruption is often cited as a reason for the horrendous number of deaths in China’s mining industry.
The total number of mining-related deaths last year is unknown, but more than 3,200 people died in China’s coal mines alone, official figures show.
However, independent monitors say those numbers are likely far lower than the true number of deaths, as officials and mine owners often try to cover up accidents to avoid punishment.
Government figures also show that almost 80 percent of the nation’s 16,000 mines are illegal, Xinhua said.