Dozens of pupils died in blast

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 February, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 February, 1996, 12:00am

DOZENS of boarding school pupils were killed in the Hunan dynamite blast - a day before they were due to have gone home for the Lunar New Year, it was revealed last night.

Six other children were killed because a video game centre had opened hours before Wednesday's blast and was letting them play there for free.

And 80 women were injured or killed as they worked overtime making festive food for the Lunar New Year.

Rescuers continued to dig in the rubble of the Shaoyang suburb where the basement blast destroyed an apartment building and the surrounding area, killing 100 people and injuring 400.

Rescue officials said hopes were dimming of finding anyone alive.

He Geng, the worker whose 10 tonnes of illegally stored dynamite caused the blast, survived the explosion. An arrest warrant has been issued for He, whom officials described as an 'illicit transporter and dealer of explosives selling mainly to private coal mines in the region'.

Shaoyang residents said He had planned to move a further 50 tonnes into his home.

'The blast took place about two days after he had moved the dynamite into his basement,' a villager said.

Relatives of the dead staged ceremonies among the debris and rubble. 'It was like the explosion of an atomic bomb,' one survivor said.

'This place is like a dead city after war,' she said.

Public Security officers guarded the 300-square metre crater created by the blast.

Hawkers sold snacks to sightseers. 'Business is good over here,' said one.

Shaoyang television broadcast told people to identify relatives' bodies before noon today, when a collective cremation is to be held.