State media says 21 workers were killed by a gas leak at a factory in northern China earlier this week after executives were caught underreporting the number of deaths.
The Xinhua News Agency says workers were poisoned after a gas pipeline broke at the Hebei Puyang Iron and Steel Co. Monday in Handan city in northern Hebei province.
The Friday report says company officials initially said 16 workers were poisoned and seven died while nine were sent to a hospital.
But company executives confessed Thursday that it had covered up the death toll during questioning by a joint investigative group made up of police and work safety officials, the report said.
The deputy manager of the plant was subsequently arrested and two other factory officials placed under house arrest for the alleged cover-up, it said.
The gas leak occurred as workers were assembling a furnace, it added.
China's work safety record is notoriously bad, with thousands of people dying every year in mines, factories and on construction sites, according to official tallies.
In northwest Gansu province, five people were killed and one remained missing after a huge explosion Thursday at a chemical plant belonging to state-run China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Xinhua said.
The explosion and fire at the plant were seen as far away as 20 kilometres (12 miles), the report said.
An initial investigation indicated a gas leak was to blame.
Last Mod: 08 Ocak 2010, 13:31