Page last updated at 07:29 GMT, Friday, 13 November 2009

Chinese schools collapse in snow


Rescue workers free people from a collapsed building in China

In China, heavy snowfall has led to the deaths of 38 people in road accidents and collapsed buildings, state-run media have reported.

The deaths included four pupils in schools that collapsed, Xinhua news agency quoted officials as saying.

Nineteen people were killed in traffic accidents that also stranded thousands of motorists, the officials said.

The deaths of thousands of pupils in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake has already raised questions of school safety.

The government promised to improve the quality of school buildings after the earthquake.

Canteens collapse

The heaviest snowfall in northern China for decades snarled road traffic across the region and forced delays or the cancellation of hundreds of flights from airports in several cities, including Beijing.

In Hebei province, two primary school girls and a boy died after heavy snow caused the roof of their canteen to collapse.

Another 28 were injured and were being treated in a local hospital. Schools in the provincial capital Shijiazhuang have been ordered to close.

Another child died in neighbouring Henan province and seven were injured, again when the roof the school canteen collapsed. Three of the students are in a critical condition.

Local media said the storms were tapering off on Friday with road, rail and air traffic beginning to return to normal.

Corruption blamed

School buildings in China are often poorly built, says the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Beijing.

In the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, thousands of children died when their schools collapsed.

Surrounding buildings remained standing and parents blamed local corruption.

China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao promised a full and open investigation, but the details were never made public.

Following these latest deaths, one Chinese state newspaper has asked why school safety is still a problem, and demands that China's children be offered better protection.

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