AP, XINHUA (China)
ZHENXIONG - Chinese authorities have offered a rare apology after cremating the remains of 46 victims of last Friday's deadly landslide, before even consulting with their families.
The AP reports that Hu Jianpu, deputy dead of Zhenxiong county in China’s Yunnan province, told state broadcaster CCTV "We did that because we were afraid that the bodies would start to decay and some bodies have been damaged in the landslide and we thought the family members would be too distraught to see them."
Traditionally in the region, the dead are buried after elaborate funerals and not cremated.
The government has said that the landslide was triggered by continuous snow and rain – however, many villagers believe that a gas explosion was to blame. Xinhua quoted villagers as saying blasting and other mining work had opened up huge fissures in the mountain looming over the villages of Gaopo and Zhaojiagou, where 14 homes were smothered.
One coal miner said the mining area was right beneath the landslide and that people had seen "earth and rocks sprayed up into the air" when the landslide occurred.
Locals also insisted that this year there has been little snow or rain compared to other years.
No geological disasters have happened in the history of this area, Liu Jianhua, the mayor of Zhaotong City that administers Zhenxiong, told Xinhua. No hidden dangers had been discovered in previous surveys and no signs had appeared prior to the disaster, Liu said.
— Xinhua News Agency (@XHNews) January 13, 2013