Unsafe Dike Claims 24 Lives

December 23, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: December 23, 2006 12:00 am

CHINA—A 6-mile long flood prevention dike along the Shaxihe River in Sanming City, Fujian Province, a location for leisure activities, has claimed 24 lives from June 1998 to August 2006.

Among the dead are 13 children. The departments responsible for maintaining the dike have continued to ignore safety hazards and denied responsibility for the deaths.

According to the Chinese newspaper the Procuratorial Daily, family members of the dead revealed that nine people fell off the dike and died in 2006 alone. The actual number of drowned people could be more than the 24 cases reported since 1998. Officials have been unable to contact the relatives of some of the deceased.

Huang Qingping, director of the Park Administration in Sanming City, said, “Every year one or two kids fall into the river and drown. It should be the responsibility of the parents to keep a watchful eye on them.”

Huang said that the main responsibility of the Park Administration is afforestation. They have built rails along the riverbanks as mandated in a document titled “Regulations on Park Construction,” published by the Ministry of Construction.

“From a legal point of view, the Park Bureau is not responsible,” Huang said. “The kids went through the rails and fell into the water from the hanging stage, which belonged to the Water Resources Bureau. You have to ask the Water Resources Bureau to bear the responsibility,” he said.

On Nov. 22, when a Procuratorial Daily reporter visited Huang Degong, director of the Water Resources Bureau in Sanming City, Mr. Huang pushed the reporter out of his office, refusing to be interviewed. When the reporter approached him again, Mr. Huang forcefully pushed him into the corridor again.

According to the “Regulations on Park Construction,” however, there should be rails on the inside and outside of buildings. The rails should be higher than 41 inches and should be firm and not accessible to climbing.

However, the rails on the Shaxihe River are approximately 35 inches high. The gaps between the rails and the ground are approximately 24 inches. In addition, there are many cracks and breaks on the rails. Some rails do not have steel inside, and some only stand in groups of two on the riverbanks. There is no warning sign on the riverbanks.

On Aug. 24, 2006, Zhan Hongguang and Xie Xiuwen, family members of a victim, filed a lawsuit in court. They argued that the Park Administration and Water Resources Bureau should admit responsibility for the death.