Villagers return after China blast

People affected by the deadly natural gas explosion that claimed 233 lives in China have started returning to their homes as the government stepped up its probe into the incident.

    Local officials have ruled out human error for the blast

    The local government in Kai county, Chongqing municipality, is trying to mobilise safe food

    and water for tens of thousands of locals.

    Gas experts and government agents are probing Tuesday's blowout but local officials

    appeared convinced that no human error was involved.

    "This was an accident, it was not caused by man," the director of Kai county's propaganda

    department said.

    Most of the deaths and injuries were caused by gas inhalation.

    Media reports said that 35 more bodies were found on Sunday, most of them in mountain areas

    or farmlands where they died while trying to escape the deadly fumes.

    The area around Gaoqiao township was showered with a stream of toxic fumes until Saturday

    morning when workers finally capped the burst No. 16 well in the Chuandongbei gas field.

    "I can tell you very clearly the affected people are very satisfied with what the government

    has done after the disaster occurred," said the propaganda chief.

    "There is not one person dissatisfied with the government work."

    The accident occurred as a drilling team was working on the 400 metre deep well, while

    officials criticised a slow emergency response as having caused more deaths.

    Rescue effort

    Meanwhile, sanitary teams collected and disposed of dead animals while health officials

    disinfected the villages.

    The government was also arranging vehicles and food for the evacuees, while officials

    said drinking water, grain and vegetables in most areas around the well were "secure enough"

    for consumption.

    "The emotions of the people are stable. The township government is organising mourning

    activities to help the families in difficulty," Peng Ying, an official in Gaoqiao said.

    Many streets in the province were
    empty after mass evacuations

    A man in Xiaoyang village near the well told the Yanzhao Metropolitan Daily that the only

    reason he did not die was because he was evacuated with the drilling team while others in

    the village perished.

    "If you were higher up on the mountain, then it was disaster because there was no place to

    run up there," Peng Bian said.

    "Some people thought that they could just close the windows and wait it out, but that was

    disastrous too. So many people died in their homes.

    "In this kind of disaster, the township must tell the village and then the village leader

    must tell the villagers. The result here was that there was no notification at all, it is

    just chaos, so people died."

    The gas field, 337km northeast of the regional capital of Chongqing, is operated by the

    state-run China National Petroleum Corporation, which has still to comment on the explosion.

    "It is certain that CNPC will pay compensation, but the investigation must be concluded

    before a compensation plan can be worked out," the propaganda official said.



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