Investigators may hold top cadres responsible for blaze

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 December, 2000, 12:00am

Top leaders in Beijing were told about the tragic fire in Luoyang at about 6.30am yesterday, a central Government official said.

The fire in a disco in Luoyang city, Henan province, killed 309 people, injuring seven, on Christmas Day. A spokesman for the State Economic and Trade Commission said the Ministry of Public Security submitted a brief report about the accident to members of the Communist Party Politburo Standing Committee early yesterday morning. The committee is China's highest policy-making body.

However, the report only said that about 180 people had died in the fire.

'The death toll was 180 at the time the ministry sent the report. We don't know if subsequent reports have updated the figure,' said the spokesman.

Informed sources said both the Ministry of Public Security and the State Economic and Trade Commission had despatched officials to Luoyang to investigate the fire.

Those involved in the probe include a police team led by Yang Huanning, assistant to the Minister of Public Security, Jia Chunwang. Shi Wanpeng, a vice-director of the commission, has led a separate team to Luoyang. Mr Shi is accompanied by Shan Huanchang, head of the Production Safety Bureau of the commission.

The commission's spokesman said it was planned that Mr Shan's bureau would be merged with the Coal Industry Bureau to form a new office called the National Production Safety Inspection Bureau but the plan was delayed because of difficulties encountered in the merger.

The merger was part of the central Government's restructuring plan to step up surveillance of industrial safety following a string of deadly industrial and transport accidents.

It is expected the investigation teams will recommend to the central Government if any provincial and municipal leaders should be punished for 'leadership responsibility' as a result of the fatal accident.

The fire at Dongdu Commercial Building in Luoyang was the second major fire incident in the province since Li Keqiang took over the Henan governorship about a year ago. In March, 74 were killed when an illegal video parlour was burned down in Jiaozuo city.

Top leaders have repeatedly stressed the importance of safety in public venues but their warnings have often been ignored by local cadres. The authorities have begun to hold senior cadres responsible for major accidents. Last month, Huang Zhendong, Minister of Communications, and Shandong Governor Li Chunting were reprimanded for a ferry accident in Shandong province a year ago. A total of 282 people were killed when the Dashun ferry capsized near Yantai on November 24 last year.

A more recent accident was the collapse of a shopping mall in Houjie county, Dongguan in Guangdong province. So far four people, including the contractor, designer, owner of the shopping mall, as well as the head of the village's party organ, have been detained over the accident.