Survivors of the explosion lashed out at government officials and the company that runs the gas operation yesterday, saying basic precautions could have saved lives. People from Xiaoyang, a small, poverty stricken village closest to the well, were particularly emotional. About 50 of the valley village's 1,000 residents were believed to have died when it was engulfed by the noxious gases. One resident, Li Huaming, said the drilling operation had been secretive and residents were not told there was a potential danger. 'The local government and the gas company have the greatest responsibility for what happened. They never warned us about the dangers from the gas field,' Mr Li said. 'We didn't know anything.' The 65-year-old's sister died after being overcome by fumes. The villagers may get a response to their complaints after the State Council announced last night that it had launched an investigation into the explosion, led by the director of the State Administration of Work Safety. Investigators have been charged with finding out the cause of the accident, the number of casualties, the amount of property damage and who was responsible. They will also recommend measures to prevent similar accidents in future. 'This is a really bad accident in history,' said a spokesman for the safety administration, Huang Yi. 'We must learn lessons from it.' Villagers were particularly angry because the gas field was operated by a large state-owned enterprise. They said they expected accidents from illegally run mines, not responsible government companies. The gas field belongs to the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. A subsidiary company, PetroChina, began building a US$400 million pipeline in August to pump natural gas from Chongqing to central China. Two of those killed were gas field employees while the rest were residents of the surrounding area. Kai county, where the blast took place, has 15 natural gas wells and a population of 1.4 million. Villager Liao Yubai, 61, said if residents had known about the potential danger of an explosion or gas leak, they could have prepared. 'If we knew, we could have taken precautions and got ready.' When the gas cloud swept by, Mr Liao, whose wife was killed in the accident, fell to the floor and tried to crawl away before passing out. Someone picked him up and saved his life. 'This is a tragedy. My wife is dead. She couldn't run. Nobody helped her,' he said. Others complained that there was no warning to evacuate. Some said a vehicle with a loudspeaker on top broadcast a warning, but not everyone could hear it. News that the well had been capped also raised tension. Many of the 42,000 people evacuated were anxious to return home. The so-called contaminated 'death zone' remained off limits last night, with police roadblocks stopping people returning to their farms. The central government is already using the disaster to promote tighter safety standards. Xinhua quoted an industrial safety agency official saying the disaster illustrated the need for an effective emergency rescue network. He said with a network at the site, 'the death toll would not have been so high'.