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Parents urged to keep close eye on kids after tragedy

By He Dan  and Zhao Kai  (China Daily)

09:29, February 20, 2013

The deaths of five children, who suffocated while playing in an abandoned tobacco workshop in Guizhou province, have led to calls for the authorities to take concrete action to make parents accountable for their children's safety. 【Previous Story: Five children suffocated in SW China】

The children, all boys aged 4 to 5 years, were from a village in Bibo township of Majiang county. They died on Monday night after lighting a fire with straw in a mud shed with no windows and only one small door, authorities said on Tuesday.

Four children were found dead in the shed by a villager, while the fifth child died later in a hospital.

"Someone in their village got married, and all the children's parents were busy helping with the wedding banquet," said Wang Wanmin, a spokeswoman for the county government.

"The five kids went out by themselves to play with the fire, the accident happened about 100 meters away from the newlyweds' house."

The township government gave each of the five children's families 2,000 yuan ($320) and 100 kg of rice as compensation for their loss, she said, adding that the county also paid 20,000 yuan to each victim's household.

The tragedy is currently being treated as an accident, but further investigations are taking place, she said.

The victims' parents could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

A number of tragedies involving unattended children have recently come to public attention.

Last week, a toddler in Shenzhen drowned in a bucket of water while her mother was playing mahjong next door, media reported.

In January, media in Shenzhen also exposed three incidents of young children falling from buildings after their parents failed to keep a close eye on them. The accidents left two dead and the other severely injured.

Children dying in accidents when they are not being watched by their parents is not uncommon, said Lan Qing, deputy director of the Rights and Interests Department at the All-China Women's Federation, which specializes in child rights.

Many children, especially those left behind by migrant parents, are left unattended and are exposed to unsafe living conditions due to China's continuing urbanization and highly mobile population, she said.

"There is an urgent need to speed up legislation and strengthen legal enforcement to ensure parents, other legal guardians and teachers are alert to children's safety," Lan said.

Song Wenzhen, director of the children's division of the State Council's National Working Committee on Children and Women, said her department has been working to provide safety education to parents.

"We're trying to deliver the message that parents should take prime responsibility in ensuring their children's safety," she said.

Song also urged the authorities to speed up the renovation of public facilities and infrastructure, removing potential risks that may harm children.

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