Deaths in Guangdong Dam Collapse

Villagers say 'corrupt' local officials ignored concerns about safety.

guangdong-dam-305.jpg Flood damage, shown in a photo sent by a listener
Photo: RFA

HONG KONG—Residents near a waste management dam in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong said several dozen households were swamped when the dam collapsed during a typhoon earlier this week, with more deaths than officials would admit to.

"This is really bad," said a resident of the area near the Yinyan Tin Mine in Guangdong's Xinyi city. "The houses have totally collapsed. Between one and two hundred people may have died."

Official media reports said five people died in the collapse of the dam, which was operated by the Hong Kong-listed Zijin Mining Group, in the wake of torrential rain and mud and rock slides caused by typhoon Fanapi last week.

A further six people were listed as missing and seven were injured, reports said.

But local people said the number of casualties was likely much higher.

"There is a huge area of countryside that is now underwater in the disaster in Qianpai township," a second local resident said.

"The deaths and injuries are very serious. A few dozen houses were knocked flat."

Area sealed off

Authorities had sealed off the area worst affected by the flood, and were keeping tight control over information on the disaster, residents said.

"There was an area of several hundred square meters affected," said a villager surnamed Chen. "But they won't let anyone go over there and take a look."

Chen said several thousand people lived in the area directly downstream of the dam, which had been constructed in the face of considerable opposition and safety fears.

"The villagers are very angry about this ... I heard talk that some people wanted to beat up the Qianpai township Party secretary."

Calls to township government offices went unanswered during office hours on Friday.

An official who answered the phone at the Xinyi municipal government offices declined to give a detailed response.

"There is a disaster, yes, at Qianpai township," the official said. "But I don't know about this; I'm just the duty officer."

Local officials blamed

Local residents had set wreaths at a crossroads close to the disaster area, villagers said, as a mark of respect for their neighbors who had lost loved ones.

Villagers blamed local officials for the disaster, accusing them of corrupt practices, a fourth villager said.

"They don't care whether the farmers live or die, as long as they get the money," he said.

China's official Xinhua news agency said Friday that at least 70 people have died from flooding in Guangdong triggered by the typhoon, with a further 65 missing, including the Zijin casualties.

Zijin Mining Group said in a statement that power, communication, and transport have been “suspended” at the mine site, and that emergency relief work is under way.

The company said its tin mine near Xinyi had been in trial production.

Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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