Saturday 10 December 2016

Nine managers held over China construction site collapse that killed 74

Published 28/11/2016 | 07:11

Rescue workers look for survivors after a scaffolding collapse in China (Xinhua News Agency/AP)
Rescue workers look for survivors after a scaffolding collapse in China (Xinhua News Agency/AP)

Nine executives are being held responsible by the Chinese government for a power plant accident where 74 workers were killed when an under-construction cooling tower collapsed.

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Those under detention included the board chairman of engineering firm Hebei Yineng, a major builder of power plants that has a record of workplace deaths, state media reported. The chief manager, deputy manager and director of engineering for the project were also detained.

Labourers were building a circular cooling tower in the southern province of Jiangxi when the interior scaffolding collapsed on Wednesday, releasing a cascade of steel, concrete and wooden planks.

It was one of China's deadliest workplace accidents in recent years and prompted calls from government officials for stepped-up inspections and a renewed emphasis on worker safety.

President Xi Jinping said local governments should learn from the accident and hold accountable anyone responsible.

No formal charges were announced against the detained executives, who also included safety managers and supervisors from a Shanghai consulting firm.

But China typically responds to high-profile workplace deaths by arresting and prosecuting company executives and local officials, with their confessions often broadcast on state television, as part of a long-standing effort to convince the public that the government is fighting widespread corruption and poor enforcement of safety standards.

After last year's explosion at a warehouse in Tianjin that killed 165 people, a court handed down sentences to 49 people, including a suspended death sentence earlier this month for the head of a company implicated in the blast.

And a 2014 explosion at a car parts factory in the eastern city of Kunshan that killed 146 people was followed by prison terms for 14 people, including the owner and senior managers of the factory, local firefighters, and work safety officials.

Investigators previously announced the detentions of 13 people after Wednesday's accident. It was not immediately clear if the suspects identified on Monday were included in that total.

Workers had been toiling in three shifts to try to finish the project ahead of the arrival of winter, according to local media interviews with surviving employees. The project had been designated a priority project by the province, probably adding to the pressure to complete it.

Press Association

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