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Page last updated at 07:10 GMT, Friday, 8 May 2009 08:10 UK

No blame in China school collapse

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Huang Fumei, 41, holds a picture of her son Shuangshuang who was killed on 12 May
Official figures show 5,335 children died when their schools collapsed

China says it has found no evidence that human negligence caused schools to collapse during last year's earthquake.

Thousands of schools were damaged while buildings nearby remained intact in the massive quake in Sichuan Province.

Many parents of dead and injured pupils blamed poor construction. They demanded an investigation.

The government has looked into the issue, but has now rejected the accusation that anyone was responsible for the schools' collapse.

According to official figures released on Thursday, a total of 5,335 schoolchildren died when their classrooms collapsed.

Up to now, we haven't found that anybody caused or did anything to make the buildings vulnerable so that they collapsed
Tang Kai, a senior planning official

In some cases, schools were the only buildings to fall down during the magnitude-8 earthquake.

That led some parents to claim that they had been badly built by local governments eager to cut costs.

Beijing officials investigated the accusations, and initially suggested they could be true.

'Cover-up'

But Tang Kai, a senior planning official, said there was no evidence that human negligence led to the collapse of any school - or any other building.

"Up to now, we haven't found that anybody caused or did anything to make the buildings vulnerable so that they collapsed," he said.

But he admitted the investigation into collapsed schools had not been easy.

"In order to rescue people who were buried beneath, some of the buildings were pulled down so we couldn't analyse how the earthquake had affected the structure of that building," he told a news conference about the earthquake reconstruction efforts.

He said investigators had had to rely on the original design plans to work out if the building had not been built properly.

He added that local governments were still looking into the question of responsibility.

But some parents believe the government has never really been serious about investigating why more than 14,000 schools were damaged in the quake.

Last August a number of parents said they unsuccessfully tried to stop the authorities removing rubble from the collapsed Juyuan Middle School in the city of Dujiangyan.

"It's the government's effort to try to cover up the problem," said Zhou Siqiang, whose daughter died at the Juyuan school.



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