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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 07:11 GMT 08:11 UK
China's record of neglect
Beijing
A special task force examined work safety in Beijing
The explosion at the Mou Gong Gou mine in south-west China comes just weeks after the government released a report revealing a staggering death toll in work-related accidents.

The report highlighted China's dismal record on industrial safety - with more than 4,000 people reported to have been killed in industrial and mining disasters in the first five months of the year.

Tens of thousands of people are estimated to die in work-related accidents a year, prompting the government to deploy a task force earlier this year to examine attitudes towards safety and identify potential dangers.

Summer of disasters
8 Sept: Lorry carrying explosives blows up in Urumqi, killing 60
5 September: Gas explodes in coal mine in central China, killing at least 10 miners
3 September: Three die at Three Gorges hydroelectric dam
22 June: 130 people die when a ferry capsizes in Sichuan
30 June: 130 people killed at fireworks plant in Guangdong
One particular area of focus for investigators, headed by the State Economic and Trade Commission, was major industrial and mining enterprises in Beijing and the provinces of Hubei, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Hainan.

Over a three-month period, they visited 293,000 enterprises and institutions, and were reported to have detected 325,200 potential risks that could lead to accidents.

The inspectors also examined civil aviation, road and water transportation, railways and petrochemical businesses to find similar hazards.

According to a government circular, published on 8 September in the China Daily, at the end of August, 76 of this year's most recent serious accidents have claimed more than 1,460 lives in total.

Days earlier, Vice-Premier Wu Bangguo urged industrial bosses to recognise the importance and urgency of industrial safety.

Closures promised

With the publication of the report, the government said it had tightened workplace safety controls.

Mr Wu said that since the beginning of the year, a large number of unsafe factories and mines had been closed down.

According to a separate report from the State Economic and Trade Commission, more than 35,000 illegally and badly sited coal mines had been closed by the end of June.

Small plants have been blamed for a number of problems, ranging from pollution to bad safety records.

After an explosion at a fireworks factory in June, which killed more than 130 people, the authorities in the province of Guangdong ordered all factories making fireworks, cigarette lighters and matches to suspend production.

They said only factories which meet fire safety standards will be allowed to re-open, but others - particularly in densely populated areas - would be closed permanently.

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See also:

21 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Three Gorges corruption scandal
30 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Killer blast at Chinese factory
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