By Yang Jian | 2013-1-15 | NEWSPAPER EDITION
AUTHORITIES in southwest China's Yunnan Province have apologized to the families of 46 landslide victims who protested over the cremation of the bodies without their consent, a rescue official said yesterday.
A spokesman for the rescue and disaster relief headquarters in Zhenxiong County said the cremations were carried out due to fears a disease might spread if the bodies were left in the open for a long time.
He also said that many of the bodies retrieved from the mud were badly damaged and if the families saw them it could have triggered more psychological pain.
Zhou Chengwu, a manager with the county's funeral parlor, said the bodies had to be dealt with within 24 hours due to limited facilities.
Zhou said the parlor was being renovated and they had to rent freezers to store the remains. "All we could get were six or seven freezers, which was far from enough," he said.
The cremations triggered protests from about 40 family members who gathered outside the headquarters on Sunday night, Zhu Henghui, office director with the Zhenxiong County government, said yesterday.
The crowd did not disperse until 2am yesterday, Zhu said.
The deadly landslide engulfed houses in the village of Gaopo on Friday, killing 46 people and injuring two others.
The cremations triggered anger because according to the village tradition, the dead are usually buried. The residents are mostly of Yi ethnicity.
The family members, most of whom had been working in cities at the time of the disaster, said they had not been given a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones.
"I had expected to have a final look at my child," said Zhao Mingcai, a migrant worker who had rushed home from the provincial capital of Kunming.
Zhao lost nine family members, including his child, his brother and sister-in-law.
Another villager, Yue Dingwu, said: "I had to see my loved ones for the last time even if I would be devastated ... even if the grief from the last sight may go with me for life."
Luo Yuanju, who lost three children, said she rushed to the funeral parlor to have a last look at them but found that all the bodies were gone.
The landslide is believed to have been caused by heavy precipitation, as well as earthquakes that struck a neighboring county last year, according to an investigation by the provincial land resources department.
However, villagers said a gas explosion from a nearby coal mine triggered the deadly disaster.
"I heard a great bang and saw the soil on the ground blown up at around 8am ahead of the landslide," said Zeng Dequan.
However, Zeng Deyong, director of the county's Coal Industry Bureau, said that was impossible. Zeng said the coal mine, and other closed mines, were more than 4 kilometers from the site.
Meanwhile, more than 500 villagers have been moved to makeshift tents near the village over fears a secondary disaster triggered by the landslide could endanger their homes.