Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Rising Tide - UPDATE

Martyn sends this update on the Shalan school tragedy from the South China Post - since SCP is unlinkable (subscription only), I'm posting in its entirety:

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Pupils' relatives told they will get bonus if they
accept 150,000 yuan by noon


Families who lost their children in the flash flood
five days ago in Ningan, Heilongjiang, have been urged
by the local government to accept compensation of
150,000 yuan each by noon today.

Wang Tongtang, secretary-general of the Communist
Party Committee in Mudanjiang city which oversees
Ningan, said families that agreed to accept the
compensation offer and cremate the bodies of the
victims within 48 hours would be offered an extra
5,000 yuan as a token of appreciation.

"China has no regulations regarding how much money
should be paid to victims of natural disasters. The
compensation we are offering is higher than the usual
amount, as far as we know," Mr Wang said.

"This is the best we can offer," he said, noting that
many villagers might not be satisfied with the offer.
"But I don't think we will increase the figure. Eleven
official working teams have been sent to negotiate
with the villagers and they will talk to families who
don't want to accept the offer."

Mr Wang said the official death toll in Ningan's
Shalan township by last night was 99 - 95 students
from the Shalan Township Central Elementary School and
four villagers. Ten more students are still missing
and 17 others are still being treated in hospitals.

He said party officials were investigating claims that
Shalan township leaders and police had ignored phone
calls for help before the flash flood hit. An
allegation that a second-grade teacher abandoned her
students, leading to more than 40 deaths, would also
be investigated.

Official investigators would review the case and
decide if anyone should be held responsible for
building the school in a flood-prone area in the town.

Families who lost their only children in the tragedy
last night were undecided over whether they should
accept the offer or press for more compensation.

Wang Yongjun , whose 10-year-old son was killed when
the school was hit by the mountain torrent last
Friday, said it was a difficult decision for him and
other victims' families.

"We do not want to oppose the government as we are
still demanding justice. But what's the use of
compensation money now that my only child is gone
forever?" Mr Wang, 33, said last night.

"But what else can we expect, because this appears to
be the government's final offer. Besides, Ningan
officials promised in a letter that I would be fully
compensated if people who did not accept the current
offer got better compensation later.

"I feel assured by their promises," said Mr Wang, who
added he had to consult his relatives and other
families on the issue before making a decision.

Gao Wenjun, who lost his niece in the flash floods,
said his family would not consider the offer because
it was lower than they expected. "How can we accept
such a small amount of money for the loss of a young
life?" he said.

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