China punishes officials a year after toxic spill

China has punished officials responsible for the Songhua River spill that cut off drinking water in Harbin for days, Xinhua news agency said on Friday.
An explosion last November at a PetroChina plant in northeastern Jilin province poured 100 tonnes of toxic benzene compounds into the Songhua, leaving millions of people in the downstream city of Harbin without drinking water for nearly a week.
The blast, caused by a mishandling of a steam valve by workers, killed eight people, injured 60, and caused direct economic losses of 69 million yuan (US$8.79 million), it said.
Duan Wende, vice president of PetroChina and its parent company, the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), received an "administrative demerit" for the state-owned firm’s negligence in work safety, Xinhua said.
Nine others, including Yu Li, general manager of the Jilin Petrochemical Company, and Shen Dongming, head of the benzene plant, were either sacked, demoted or received demerits and warnings, Xinhua said.