China reports 31 dead in tunnel blast

2014-03-13 10:14
(Kyodo News/ AP)

(Kyodo News/ AP)

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Beijing - The death toll from a little-reported road explosion was disclosed on Thursday to be a much higher 31, nearly two weeks after the blast shook a highway tunnel in northwestern China.

The official Xinhua News Agency did not explain the increase from an early report of 13 deaths but said a team investigating the crash convened on Thursday to brief on the latest developments. It also said another nine people were missing.

The report came after China concluded its annual meeting of its ceremonial congress in Beijing, raising questions if the information was kept under wraps to avoid disruption to the convention.

While there is no official allegation of a cover-up, such a delay would be consistent with China's efforts to ensure social stability during the congress.

Also, senior government officials convened in Beijing to attend, leaving a temporary leadership vacuum in local governments.

Xinhua said a coal truck and a vehicle carrying liquid methanol collided inside the tunnel in Shaanxi province on 1 March, causing a blast and setting fire to more coal trucks.

Initial reports were scant, but on 5 March, Xinhua said 13 people were dead, another 11 injured and 42 vehicles destroyed.

The official microblog by a local highway battalion made no mention of the crash but on 5 March posted a notice that bans hazardous chemicals from all highways in the province for one year.

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