Power Returns, But at What Cost?

Powerline restorationMixed messages from China’s state-run media today on the resumption of electricity in the wake of this month’s catastrophic southern snow storms. First is a rah-rah report from China Daily, “Full power returning to snow-hit regions,” written in dramatic language usually reserved for stories on the country’s economic progress:

As of Saturday, the Southern Power Grid has lifted 23.28 million people from darkness, accounting for 88.9 percent of the total number suffering from the power outages, statistics from the disaster relief and emergency command center under the State Council showed.

But elsewhere in the paper, another report (“Fears over new mine accidents“) suggests the rush to lift those millions out of darkness may have deadly consequences:

The buildup of deadly gases, flooding and unstable power supply at the mines could all cause problems, a statement posted on the website of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) said.

“Because of the effects of the weather, many coal mines lost power and had to shut. Others closed over the Lunar New Year holiday, and small mines are starting to open again after the vacation, putting huge pressures on safety,” it said.

“The safety situation is much more serious than in previous years.”

According to a report from AFP, 1800 coal mines in southern provinces have experienced gas build-ups while another 600 were flooded in the wake of the Spring Festival snowstorms.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, has seized the opportunity to take another hard look at the politics of coal mine safety with a focus on beleaguered Linfen.

[Image: Workers restore a power line in Jiangxi, by Xiong Bo, China Daily.]

February 18, 2008 1:36 AM
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Categories: Society