March 24, 1996 in Nation/World

Failed Chinese Rocket ‘Erased’ Nearby Village

Associated Press
 

Israeli television aired a videotape Saturday that for the first time shows the devastation caused when a Chinese rocket crashed into a village after a failed satellite launch.

An Israeli engineer shot the footage during a business trip to China, Channel Two television said.

The rocket veered off course two seconds after take-off on Feb. 15 at the Xichang space center in remote southwestern Sichuan province, and landed nose-first nearby.

The launch was being aired live, but Chinese authorities cut video transmission just after the rocket started to plummet. Two weeks later, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that six people had been killed and 57 injured.

But the engineer, who asked not to be identified because he continues to do business in China, said the casualty toll appeared to be much higher.

The footage aired by Channel Two shows the remains of long white buildings inside the village and a nearby military base, some of them reduced to rubble, others left partially standing with bare window and doorway frames and broken facades.

Furniture, clothing and other belongings - including a white teddy bear in pink overalls - are strewn haphazardly amidst the blocks of concrete.

“The impact simply erased the (military) base, erased the village. Something unbelievable,” the engineer said in a telephone interview with a local Israeli radio station the day after the accident.

On the tape, shot a day after the crash and later smuggled out of the country, according to Channel Two, the amateur cameraman describes the scene in the unidentified village.

“Here is the hotel, the second floor,” he says as the camera focuses on fallen beams and broken walls.

Then, panning over a large pile of stone and rubble, he adds: “A gift shop, flower shop, post office, where I used to buy all my postcards, souvenirs.”

Xinhua reported on March 2 that the explosion was caused by a defective guidance system. The agency said 80 homes were damaged.

The Long March 3B rocket was carrying a communications satellite for Washington-based Intelsat, an international satellite conglomerate.

The rocket was being launched for the first time after three years of testing, and was the second Chinese rocket to explode in a year.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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