China / Society

Families protest unapproved cremation of victims

(Xinhua) Updated: 2013-01-14 15:23

ZHENXIONG, Yunnan - About 40 family members of landslide victims in Southwest China's Yunnan province have protested after their loved ones' bodies were cremated without their approval.

The people gathered on the road to the landslide rescue and disaster relief headquarters in Zhenxiong county on Sunday night, blocking dozens of vehicles, Zhu Henghui, office director with the Zhenxiong County Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), said early on Monday.

The crowd did not disperse until 2 am Monday, according to Zhu.

The landslide, which occurred in the Zhenxiong village of Gaopo on Friday, killed 46 villagers and injured another two.

Government authorities had cremated all the bodies by Sunday, triggering anger from the victims' family members. According to the tradition of the village, where dwellers are mostly of Yi ethnicity, bodies of the dead are usually buried instead of cremated.

Moreover, the family members, most of whom worked in cities and escaped the disaster, said they did not even have a chance to say goodbye to their deceased relatives because of the unapproved cremation.

"I had expected to have a final look at my child," said Zhao Mingcai, a migrant worker who rushed home from the provincial capital of Kunming on hearing the news.

Zhao lost nine of his family members in the landslide, including his child, his brother and sister-in-law.

Lei Chuying, deputy chief of Zhenxiong county, said cremation orders were given with consideration to epidemic prevention as well as the family members' emotions.

"Many parts or organs were missing when the bodies were dug out, and the scene may have left the families devastated," said Lei.

The landslide is believed to have been caused by heavy precipitation, as well as earthquakes that struck a neighboring county last year.

More than 500 villagers have been moved to makeshift tents near the village over fears that a secondary disaster triggered by the landslide could endanger their homes. Others have gone to stay with relatives and friends in other villages.

Makeshift houses will be built to replace the tents and provide shelter for disaster-affected residents, and plans to rebuild the village have been launched, according to Chen Xiangjin, vice-secretary of the CPC Zhenxiong County Committee.

Chen added that a daily subsidy of 12.5 yuan ($2) will be given to those affected by the landslide for the next three months.

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