Families in Hegang City, China are distraught. A gas explosion in a mine killed many of their loved ones and the “comfort teams” the company provides, to help assuage their grief, are instead hiding information and acting violently, according to one family.
The total death toll remains unknown as local figures conflict with the regime’s official number of 108 fatalities amongst the 500 workers who were underground at the time of the explosion.
A relative of one of the casualties, Mr. Li, said the actual death toll is likely much higher as the workers would have numbered more than 800, rather than 500. He said the coal mine has 7,000 employees and it was doubtful only 500 were working the night shift. The explosion happened in the Xinxing coal mine in Hegang city, Heilongjiang province in northeastern China at 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 21.
“Some families noticed that the number assigned to the comforting teams was more than 108,” Mr. Li said. “They did not carry corpses out of the mine at night until the central government investigation team left the coal mine. The whole coal mine was in state of siege to prevent the victims’ relatives from making trouble on the scene.”
A Morning News report said every victim’s family had been assigned to a comforting team, also raising the question of the true death toll.
High Gas Concentration Levels Ignored
Warning signs prior to the devastating blast were ignored, according to a report by the Southern Weekend. “At 1:37 a.m. on Nov. 21, the dispatching station received a report: gas concentration has exceeded the safety level by 12 percent,” the report said.
“However, during the 43 minutes before the explosion happened, the majority underground working teams did not receive any warning from the dispatching station, except for a few workers who surfaced early under the advice of gas monitoring technician.”
Mr. Li told The Epoch Times, “When the gas monitoring technician got the alarming result, he brought eight miners including my brother to the surface, however, their team leaders drove them back, he said, ‘don’t listen to him [gas monitoring technician] he’s bluffing, nothing would happen,’ it is approaching end of the year, everyone wants achievement because it involves bonus. But is what the team leader did murdering?”
Family Members Not Allowed to View Loved One’s Body
After waiting anxiously for five days, Mr. Li’s family was notified that their loved one’s body had been recovered. “[But] they do not want us to see the body. As family members, we do not understand why. Is it because of a partial body or any other reasons?” Mr. Li said.
He said the mining company seemed to be hiding something and their comfort team staff treated the family with violence.
“As victim family members, we had not seen our family member for 4 to 5 days, so we visited the mine offices, but they accused us of making trouble and beat my sister-in-law. When my father-in-law tried to talk about it with a reporter, a team member dragged and pulled him to the ground,” Mr. Li said.
“The team was expected to comfort and help the victim’s family but they inflicted damage on us.”
The coal mine provided two compensation schemes: each victim’s family could get 102,600 yuan (US$15,024) in allowances plus a compensation package of either a one-time 200,000 yuan (US$29,411) payment or a long-term scheme of 708 yuan (US$104) per month for the spouse and 531 yuan (US$78) a month for parents and children, according to the state-run People’s Daily report.
Mr. Li said that the families were not satisfied with these compensation schemes, “The mine company assigns one comfort team to each family in order to isolate and defeat us.” The families hoped to get justice for the officers neglectful of their responsibilities, but any person in charge is yet to respond.
Watch the NTDTV report on "China Coal Mine Death Toll Higher, Says Victim Relatives."