Chinese Premier Li Keqiang says officials who failed in their duties will be punished after last month’s floods
- Li’s visit to the provincial capital Zhengzhou saw him inspect a subway tunnel that flooded quickly, killing 14 people
- Premier says investigation into disaster that killed more than 300 people must ‘give society an account’ of what happened
Accompanied by local officials in the capital of Henan province, Li was shown the emergency platform for evacuation.
“The water rose so fast that the platform and the handrails were all under water then,” a local official told the premier in a video shared on the State Council’s website. “The water was almost at head height.”
“This accident had a huge impact on society … [We should] seek truth from facts and conduct a thorough investigation,” Li told local officials. He added that anyone found to have failed in their duties would be held responsible.
“[This] should serve as a warning to our children, and we must give society an account [of what happened],” Li said.
The torrential rainfall and severe floods caused widespread damage and disruption in the city.
Most recorded deaths, 292, happened in Zhengzhou, including 39 people who died in underground garages and tunnels. Some 50 people are still listed as missing in Henan, 47 of them from Zhengzhou.
Direct economic losses in Henan province were estimated at 114.3 billion yuan (US$17.6 billion), with more than 580,000 hectares of farmland inundated, local officials told a press conference earlier this month.
The State Council said early this month that it would set up a team to investigate the disaster, including Zhengzhou’s response, and said officials would be held to account.
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Li said officials should learn lessons and strengthen the early warning and emergency evacuation mechanisms.
He also said construction standards must improve to make infrastructure safer, adding that subways and tunnels should be shut down in a timely manner in emergencies.
There has been widespread criticism of Zhengzhou’s subway operator for its slow response to the flooding.
Many people questioned why services were not immediately suspended after heavy rainfall warnings were issued.
Li’s visit to Zhengzhou came after the Communist Party leadership’s annual summer break at the seaside retreat of Beidaihe.
Beijing authorities have not formally announced the start of the Beidaihe meeting, but the weekly meeting of the State Council, China’s cabinet, was suspended for the past two weeks.
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On Monday the State Council held its first executive meeting of the month, where Li said warning and emergency response systems must be improved and discussed reconstruction plans for the areas affected by the floods.
Li also visited a dyke in Weihui city that was breached during the floods. “[We should] make the restoration and reinforcement of reservoirs a top priority,” he said.