China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Key official in China toxic spill found dead

BEIJING (AFP) - The vice mayor and environment chief for China's Jilin city has been found dead, the city's Communist Party press office said, amid accusations he was involved in last month's toxic disaster cover-up there.

He died yesterday," a spokesman for the Jilin city party press office told AFP, without giving any details as to the cause of death.

"The police are investigating. We don't know any more about it. I think the police will make a public announcement after they finish their investigation."

Wang Wei, the vice mayor who was also in charge of environment protection, took a high-profile role after a blast at the PetroChina chemical plant in Jilin on November 13 that killed eight people and injured 60 others.

The accident led to the spillage of 100 tonnes of the carcinogens benzene and nitrobenzene into the Songhua River, one of China's longest waterways and a source of water for millions of people.

However officials said nothing of the contamination of the Songhua for nearly 10 days.

"It will not cause large scale pollution. We have decided not to have a large scale evacuation," the China Business News quoted Wang on November 15 as saying.

Nearly four million people in the city of Harbin later had their mains water supply cut off for five days as a result of the spill.

A report on the Singapore news website, zaobao.com, said Wang had been found dead in his home, without giving any further details.

Jilin's police department refused to confirm anything about the Wang case when contacted by AFP.

"We are not clear about it," an officer at the Jilin public security bureau's command centre said.

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