CNPC exec sacked, others arrested over killer gas blast

A vice president of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Yu Yaowen, has been sacked just a few weeks after the catastrophic gas explosion at one of CNPC's Chongqing wells where 243 people were killed. However, the company are denying that he has been asked to leave because of the disaster.

According to an unnamed CNPC official, "Wu Yaowen has been removed as vice president of CNPC. He has retired and I don't think it has anything to do with the explosion in the Chuandongbei gas field." Coincidentally, the now retired Wu was also a vice chairman of PetroChina, a company that also had ownership over the Chuandongbei gas field.

In related news, a local Chongqing daily, the Chongqing Morning Post, has announced that the authorities have arrested Wang Jiandong and Song Tao - the leaders of the Chuandong Drill and Exploration Company team - for their parts in the disaster. Three other unnamed drill team officials have been put under house arrest.

State TV had already announced that the central government inspection taskforce had placed the finger of blame on the workers drilling at the well.

Apparently, according to the TV report, every conceivable mistake was made before, during and after the drilling, with workers at the site failing to raise alarm in time to warn the surrounding villagers of the disaster that was about to strike them.

According to the State TV statement, "the errors made at the gas field near Chongqing municipality were so grave that the inspectors would recommend that the people found responsible for the disaster be dealt with seriously."

As it stands right now, 243 people are dead, 9,000 villagers have suffered gas poisoning and nearly 60,000 people have had to be evacuated. Around 157 people - 27 of them in critical condition - are still in hospital. CNPC has paid around US$3.9 million in compensation to the victims.