China Gas Explosion Death Toll Increases Amid State Media Controversy

China Gas Explosion Death Toll Rises Amid State Media Scandal

The death toll resulting from a suspected gas explosion on the outskirts of Beijing escalated to seven on Thursday, accompanied by apologies from local authorities for obstructing state media coverage at the site.

The explosion, which occurred on Wednesday on the first floor of a multistory building in Yanjiao, a town within Sanhe city in Hebei province, northeastern China, left an additional 27 individuals injured.

Situated approximately 20 miles east of China’s capital, Beijing, the incident drew attention from the city’s Emergency Management Bureau, which disclosed that 14 of the wounded had already been discharged from hospitals. An ongoing investigation is underway into what authorities suspect to be a natural gas leak, according to a statement released.

Dashcam footage from a nearby vehicle captured the explosion, depicting a fireball engulfing the building, accompanied by smoke and debris. Post-blast images showcased the partial collapse of the structure, leaving it devoid of its facade.

China Gas Explosion Death Toll Increases Amid State Media Controversy
China Gas Explosion Death Toll Increases Amid State Media Controversy (Credits: Newsweek)

Recalling the harrowing moments, a 68-year-old survivor recounted to the Chinese news portal Dawan that she and others were about to attend a gym class upstairs when the explosion occurred. She described noticing a strong smell of gas upon entering the building, followed by being knocked unconscious and sustaining a broken finger.

This incident marks the latest in a series of deadly gas-related accidents in China, prompting the government’s ongoing efforts to enhance regulatory enforcement and public awareness campaigns to prevent such occurrences.

Despite the gravity of the situation, uniformed officers obstructed at least two journalists from state media outlets from reporting at the scene, even while remaining outside the designated safety perimeter. The interference prompted an unusual segment on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, wherein reporter Yang Hailing was shown being interrupted during a live update by authorities citing safety concerns.

Furthermore, award-winning journalist Xu Mengzhe shared a now-deleted social media post detailing her and her crew’s encounter with uniformed officers who pushed them away from the scene.

These incidents spurred an uncommon response from the All-China Journalists Association, overseen by the Communist Party, which emphasized journalists’ rights to report legitimately, particularly during major public safety incidents.

The association stressed the importance of journalists’ access to address public concerns and dispel rumors, asserting that official press releases alone are insufficient substitutes for on-the-ground reporting.

In response to the backlash, Sanhe’s incident task force issued a statement expressing regret over the actions of its members and apologizing for forcibly removing state media reporters while attempting to enforce a safety perimeter for nonessential personnel.

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