Ferry tragedy probe targets 17 officials

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 November, 2000, 12:00am

Seventeen officials and company managers have been disciplined or are to face criminal investigation over a catastrophic sea disaster in Shandong's Yantai city which killed 282 people a year ago.

For the first time, authorities have also issued 'administrative punishment' to a provincial governor and a minister for neglecting their 'leadership responsibilities' over the accident.

Shandong Governor Li Chunting and Communications Minister Huang Zhendong were given the unprecedented punishment, Xinhua reported yesterday. Although the punishment was mild compared to those faced by others, it will stay on their personal records and will count against their career in the future.

Xinhua said four of the 17 faced criminal investigation.

They were general manager Gao Feng, his deputy Yu Chuanlong, and Fan Shihui, a safety supervisor with the Yantai Ferry Car Company. Du Jijun, a safety officer of Yantai's Harbour Administration Bureau, has also been transferred to the judiciary for investigation.

The large death toll from last November's disaster has alarmed the central Government, which has put Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo in charge of the investigation.

A report compiled by the investigation team said misjudgment by the ferry captain, who died in the disaster, navigational mistakes and overloading were principal causes of the accident.

The disaster has been branded the worst in modern China. The 9,000-tonne ferry Dashun, with 312 passengers and crew on board, caught fire in heavy seas and gale-force winds on November 24 as it headed from Yantai to Dalian port in Liaoning province.

Luo Gan, a Politburo member, warned early this week that 'laxity' among officials was one of the main reasons behind the frequent occurrence of serious accidents.