181 trapped in flooded coal mines in East China

Updated: 2007-08-18 15:10

Rescuers take a rest outside a flooded coal mine in Xintai City, East China's Shandong Province, Aug. 18, 2007. One hundred and seventy-two miners were trapped in a flooded coal mine in Xintai, authoritative sources said on Saturday morning. [Xinhua]

XINTAI, Shandong Province -- One hundred and seventy-two miners were trapped in a flooded coal mine in east China's Shandong province, authoritative sources said on Saturday morning.

The flooding occurred at around 2:30 p.m. Friday in the coal mine of Huayuan Mining Co. Ltd (formerly known as Zhangzhuang coalmine) in Xintai City, about 150 kilometers south of Jinan, Shandong's capital.

A total of 756 miners were working underground at the time of the flooding and 584 managed to escape after the accident, Xu Qinyu, general manager of the company said on Saturday morning.

Downpours hit the area Friday with a precipitation of 205 millimeters, triggering flash flood and a 50-meter breach of a levee of the Wen river in the region.

Floodwater from the Wen river swamped the coal mine via an old shaft. A 100-millimeter rainfall Saturday night worsened the flooding situation. The rain ended around 7 a.m. Saturday.

By 8:50 a.m., the working places under the mine have been all inundated, according to the rescue headquarters.

Wang Ziqi, director of the Shandong coal mine safety administration, said the trapped miners had only slim chances of survival.

Most of the trapped people were from rural areas in Tai'an City and surrounding areas, said Wang Junmin, vice governor of Shandong.

About 2,000 Chinese People's Liberation Army troops, armed police and miners have closed up a 30-meter section of the breached levee of the Wen river by midday Saturday.

The closure of the breach is crucial to the rescue efforts and it will stop water from continuing to flow into the mine, according to rescuers.

Floodwater at the breach site has risen to two meters high, inundating trees near the bank.

Zhang Yulin, a worker with a nearby coal mine, said he was called up to close the breached levee around 3 a.m. Saturday with others.

Meanwhile, more than 50 workers were busy installing pipes to pump water from the flooded shaft.

The rescue headquarters has ordered all coal mines near the banks of the Wen River to stop production and evacuate all workers.

Residents in the low-lying areas downstream were also told to be ready to evacuate to prevent casualties.

In a separate accident in Xintai, nine people were trapped in the Minggong coal mine after it flooded because of the rainstorms.

Ninety-five people were working underground when the accident happened. Eight-six have been lifted alive. Rescue work is underway.

Li Yizhong, director of the Administration of Work Safety and Zhao Tiechui, director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, have rushed to the site to oversee rescue efforts.

The work safety watchdog issued on Saturday an emergency notice urging coal mines to draw lessons from the Huayuan mine accident and immediately take preventive measures against rainstorm-triggered floods.

Huayuan Mining Co. Ltd is a licensed enterprise with an annual capacity of 750,000 tons.

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