A miner works at a coal mine in Lyuliang, Shanxi province. (Photo/China News Service)
Provincial committee takes action after deadly fire at coal company
Shanxi province's top authority has vowed to resolutely curb the occurrence of major accidents, asking county officials to devote themselves to the front lines of work safety management.
The pledge came in a statement issued after a high-profile meeting of the Shanxi provincial committee of the Communist Party of China, which was convened on Saturday following a deadly fire at a Yongju coal mining company building in Lyuliang city.
The fire started at around 7 am on Thursday in a large shower room and spread to the second floor of the five-story building in Lishi district. The blaze left 26 dead and 38 injured.
According to local authorities, seven of the injured are in severe but not life-threatening condition, and an investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing.
Punitive measures, which in China can include arrest, detention and residential surveillance, have been taken against 13 individuals, including the actual controller and other executives of the company.
The statement demanded authorities across the major coal-producing province roll out more effective measures to prevent serious accidents from happening and make "all-out efforts to safeguard the safety of people's lives and property".
In China, serious accidents usually refer to those that claim 10 to 29 lives, seriously injure 50 to 99 people, or cause economic losses of 50 million yuan ($6.9 million) to less than 100 million yuan.
Adhering to the principle that nothing is more precious than people's lives, Shanxi will determine the cause of the fire and hold those responsible accountable as soon as possible, the statement said, adding that the province will also immediately launch a campaign focused on fire safety.
Heads of the Party committee and other government departments should use all available resources to help mitigate workplace accidents, it emphasized.
The statement highlighted the role of county officials who are involved in work safety management.
They should dedicate more of their time and attention to ensuring safety in the workplace, and should personally take part in inspections and offer guidance, it stated.
The Saturday meeting was also attended by leading officials with the Shanxi provincial government, the province's legislative and political advisory bodies, as well as the provincial people's court and procuratorate.
Officials with prefecture-level governments in the province took part in the meeting via video link.
Zhu Jiang, chief engineer with the Shanxi fire and rescue administration, said in a news conference on Friday that, aside from over 200 lockers, there were roughly 1,700 hanging baskets operated on an electric conveyor system in the shower room that were used by workers to place their clothes and shoes.
Due to the fire, many of the baskets and workers' belongings dropped to the ground, making the rescue operation more challenging, he said.
Some fire and rescue authorities across the country have decided to roll out inspections centered on such baskets after the accident.
The fire and rescue team in Huainan, Anhui province, for instance, noted a series of fire hazards with the baskets, which are common in shower rooms in mining companies.
Such baskets can cause fires to spread rapidly. The electric conveyors that control them are often not well maintained or regularly changed, it said.