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At least 47 miners missing in 3 separate colliery accidents in China
Latest Updated by 2007-04-18 09:24:40
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At least 47 miners are trapped below ground in Chinese coal pits after three separate accidents happened all on the same day.

Rescuers said at least two miners were trapped in the most recent accident, which occurred in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province at around 8:00 p.m. on Monday when a mine collapsed in Jixi City.

Sources with the provincial coal mine supervision authority said the privately-run mine was not registered with local supervision authorities and was operating illegally.

The cave-in followed two major accidents in central China's Hunan and Henan provinces, in which 45 miners are trapped.

The first accident, which happened at around 3:40 p.m. on Monday when Changcheng Mine, Zhuzhou city, Hunan, flooded, trapping 12 people, said Huang Fangming, of the provincial administration of coal mine safety.

Rescue teams had been dispatched from neighboring cities to help with the operation to reach the trapped miners, but heavy rains had hampered their efforts, Huang said.

Changcheng Mine is a privately-operated mine with a production capacity of 30,000 tons a year. Its license and certificates were valid, Huang said.

On the same day, 33 miners were trapped after an explosion in a coal mine in Pingdingshan City of Henan.

Forty-two miners were working underground when the blast occurred and only nine managed to escape, local government sources said.

Zhou Hui, a miner who survived the blast, said "I was filling up the cart with coals, then a huge wave knocked me over. I had to climb about 15 meters to reach the mouth of the pit."

Zhang said before the blast happened, miners used dynamites to blow sections of deserted rails, which might have set off the gas or coal dust in the pits.

After rescue operations began, a second explosion shook the mine at around 4:00 a.m. Tuesday and injured 12 rescuers, but the operation continued, said Li Jiucheng, head of the provincial coalmine safety supervision.

Li said some workers suffered serious burns, and they are being treated at a local hospital.

Li said the rescuers had encountered many difficulties. The tunnels were built with wooden structures, and a massive fire was still burning underground, he said, adding that the shafts had a 59 to 69 degree gradient, and had multiple cave-ins.

The private mine, with a annual capacity of 60,000 tons, is still waiting for the renewal of its license which has expired. It was operating illegally when the accident occurred, Li said.

Local police are seeking six people in connection with the incident, including the mine owner, mine manager and two deputy managers, who have disappeared. The police have frozen the mine owner's bank account.

Rescuers at the scene said the absence of the mine owner was a major hindrance as no specific geological information was available. They said the shafts were poorly designed with inefficient ventilation.

Rescuers are working in shifts to dig tunnels near the main pit and pipe in inert gas to quell the fire. Several family members of the trapped miners are waiting outside the mine.

Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, and provincial safety officials arrived at the scene of the accident to direct the rescue operations.

Sources with the administration said Premier Wen Jiabao and State Councilor Hua Jianmin have required the local authorities to design scientific plans to save the trapped miners, and work to prevent occurrence of further accidents.

This is the second major coal mine accident to hit the city in less than a month, following a mine flood on March 23, which killed 15 miners.

Coal mine accidents killed 4,746 people in 2006 and 357 in the first two months of this year, figures from the State Administration of Work Safety show.

China has set a goal of reducing the death rate to 2.1 for every one million tons of coal produced by 2010, down from 2.81 in2005. The 2005 rate was 70 times worse than the United States and seven times than Russia and India.

Editor: Yan

By: Source: China View website
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