Ex-Chinese official commits suicide after landslide disaster

BEIJING: A former senior Chinese official who was in charge of an agency responsible for regulating a waste heap that collapsed last week with the loss of more than 70 people has committed suicide, police said on Monday.

The government has not blamed anyone for the disaster in the southern city of Shenzhen on December 20, when the dump overflowed and engulfed 33 buildings in an industrial park, but on Saturday it blamed breaches of construction safety rules.

Two people have been confirmed dead while more than 70 are missing.

The former director of the Guangming New District Urban Management Bureau, a man surnamed Xu, had committed suicide, district police said in a microblog post, adding that police had received a report that a person had fallen from a building late on Sunday.

Police made no link between Xu's death and the disaster. The government had warned earlier that those held responsible would be "seriously punished in accordance with the law".

The Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper identified Xu as Xu Yuanan.

It is unclear when Xu stepped down as director of the Guangming New District Urban Management Bureau but the district government reported on its web site that another person has been appointed head of the agency in July.

The disaster is the latest deadly accident to raise questions about China's industrial safety standards and lack of oversight over years of rapid economic growth.

Last week, an executive with a government-appointed monitoring agency said it had urged Shenzhen Yixianglong, the firm managing the dump, to stop work four days before the disaster, citing safety concerns.