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China Demands Better School Safety

March 12, 2001

BEIJING (AP) _ School officials have been ordered to tighten security or face punishment after a deadly school blast in southeastern China.

An Education Ministry circular orders school inspections to ``root out hidden dangers″ and requires schools to draft plans for ensuring safety, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Monday.

Those responsible would be ``heavily punished″ for any incidents caused by negligence, it said.

State media says a deranged man walked into the school in Fang Lin village, Jiangxi province, with two bags of explosives on March 6 and detonated them, killing 42 and injuring 27. State media said he died in the blast.

Victims’ families accused the government of a cover-up and blamed school officials, who they said forced children to make fireworks _ a key industry in the area _ in class.

Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji said an investigation found no sign of improper business activity in the school.

In a separate Xinhua report, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao attacked foreign news accounts that the children had been making fireworks as ``irresponsible″ distortions intended to shame China.

Xinhua also reported survivors of the explosion resumed classes Monday at 13 nearby schools while a new schoolhouse is being built.

``Relevant departments have sent textbooks, desks and other school facilities to the lucky pupils,″ the report said.

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