Central China school revamps safety rules after stampede

18:57, December 09, 2009      

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A central China school has revamped safety rules by rescheduling classes to avoid rush hour crowds after a stampede Monday killed eight students and injured 26.

The privately-run Yucai Middle School in Xiangxiang, a small city in Xiangtan, Hunan Province, put up notices near the stairs on all five floors of its school building Wednesday, reminding students to take the nearest staircase to their classrooms for safe evacuation.

School authorities also arranged a different times to avoid crowds before the lunch break and after the evening study session.

On both occasions first-year students were allowed to leave their classrooms 10 minutes in advance, said Liu Xiangping, deputy chief of education in Xiangxiang City. "Second-graders will leave five minutes later and third-year students will be the last to leave."

Liu has taken charge of the school after its principal and chairman were detained Tuesday.

The new regulations also rescheduled the evening lights-out from 9:30 p.m. to 9:40 p.m., to ensure the last to leave their evening study session had enough time to get ready for bed, said Liu.

The new schedule was adopted on Tuesday.

Yucai's school building had four exits, but when the evening study session ended at around 9:10 p.m. Monday, hundreds of students surged toward the one closest to their dormitory building to avoid heavy rain.

They swarmed downstairs on a 1.5-meter-wide staircase when a girl tripped and caused dozens to lose their balance and fall in a3 to 5-square meter area.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, 31 students were still in hospital, including the 26 injured and another five under observation. One of the five serious cases was transferred to a hospital in the provincial capital Changsha.

The campus was closed to the media Wednesday. An announcement from the local public security department was aired, saying outsiders were no longer allowed on campus lest they disrupt school order.

The school, founded in 1997, has 3,626 junior high students, mostly aged 11 to 14. It employs 140 people.

The local government has yet to reach compensation deals with the dead students' families. It promised "the maximum compensation possible" on Tuesday.

The family planning authorities, meanwhile, have offered fertility services for free to deprived "one child" parents.

The tragedy has aroused widespread concern over campus safety in China. Zhang Fangping, head of the Hunan provincial education bureau, vowed to penalize school officials responsible for similar disasters.

"In case of similar disasters, the principal will be sacked immediately and we'll advise the local government and Communist Party of China committee to take action against those who are responsible," Zhang said at Wednesday's conference call with principals of all kindergartens and primary and secondary schools in Hunan.

He said the province would launch a 10-day safety overhaul at all schools and kindergartens starting on Thursday.

Source:Xinhua
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