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China Will Investigate 12 Officials After Deadly Schoolbus Crash

Authorities suspended 12 officials after an overloaded minivan crashed in eastern China, killing 11 children, the deadliest such accident since 19 were killed when a makeshift school bus rammed into a coal truck last year.

A vice mayor in the town of Guixi and the head of the local education bureau were among the officials who were suspended and put under investigation, the official People’s Daily newspaper reported today. Those responsible for the crash will be dealt with seriously and in accordance with the laws after the investigation ends, the report said.

The seven-seat school minivan, loaded with 17 people, plunged into a roadside pond Monday. The crash is the latest in a series of fatal accidents that prompted Premier Wen Jiabao to demand more regulation and money for school bus services in China. The State Council issued a directive in April detailing standards and qualifications for school vehicles and drivers.

Monday’s crash “has led to concerns about how effectively the regulation has been carried out by local governments throughout the vast rural areas,” the state-run English-language China Daily said in an editorial today. “It also shows that local governments have made insufficient efforts to monitor the implementation of the relevant state stipulations, a kind of dereliction of duty.”

Overcrowding on school buses is common in rural China, where scattered schools are being closed or merged into bigger ones. Ministry of Education data showed 257,140 primary schools at the end of 2010, down from 491,273 in 2001. The ministry called on governments at all levels yesterday to make student safety a priority and overhaul transport services.

The van was headed to the Chunlei kindergarten and all of the dead were between four and six years old. The driver of the van, Zhou Chun’e, also runs the kindergarten and was detained.

Kindergarten Shut

The kindergarten, established in 2004, doesn’t have a government license and was ordered shut yesterday, the Xinhua News Agency said.

In November last year, a nine-seat private school van overloaded with 62 kindergarten children and two adults crashed head-on with a truck in a rural area in western Gansu Province, killing 19 of the children and both adults. Early this month, an incident involving a school bus in Hunan Province killed one and another in Shandong killed 2.

The families of the victims from Monday’s crash will be given 480,000 yuan ($77,100) in compensation, Xinhua reported.

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