CHINA / Regional
Death toll in Shanxi coal mine blast rises to 105
Updated: 2007-12-06 21:55
Latest: Death toll from a coal mine gas explosion has increased to 105 by 10:30am Friday as rescuers found another 26 bodies under the shaft of the Xinyao Coal Mine in Shanxi Province, according to a Xinhua dispatch report on Friday.
Preliminary investigation found that at least 120 miners were working underground when the explosion happened at 11:15 pm Wednesday, and 15 of them were rescued or managed to escape on their own.
But the exact number of miners still trapped underground is yet to be verified.
Rescue operation is still underway.
TAIYUAN -- Rescuers discovered nine more bodies under the shaft of the Xinyao Coal Mine, bringing the death toll as of Friday morning to 79, following a gas explosion in the mine in Shanxi Province on Wednesday.
The explosion happened inside the Xinyao Coal Mine, a village-run coal mining venture in Hongtong County, Linfen, while 111 miners were working inside the shaft, according to rescue headquarters. Only 15 of the miners escaped or were rescued later.
The cause of the accident has yet to be determined.
Rescue officials said the accident happened at 11:15 p.m Wednesday, but local authorities didn't learn about it until 5:00 a.m. Thursday. Officials also said that they believed the colliery managers delayed in reporting the accident while they tried to mount their own operations, which meant that a crucial window of time for rescue passed and casualties probably increased.
Xinyao, owned by Ruizhiyuan Mining Co., held full, valid licenses at the time of the accident that allowed it to produce 210,000 tons of coal annually.
Rescue and recovery work was continuing on Friday morning and officials were seeking to identify the dead.
Toll Rises to 70
Taiyuan -- Rescuers have retrieved 70 bodies by Thursday evening following a coal mine gas blast in North China's Shanxi Province early in the day.
As of 6:20 pm, at least 26 miners were still trapped underground in the village-run Xinyao pit, located in Hongtong County of Linfen, according to the headquarters of the rescue operation.
The headquarters said the accident happened at 11:15 pm Wednesday, but the local authorities didn't learn about it until 5 am Thursday.
The headquarters said it believed the colliery managers delayed in reporting the accident as they were trying to launch rescue operation by themselves, which wasted the best time for rescue and magnified the number of casualties.
A total of 15 workers were rescued or had managed to escape on their own, said sources with the coal mine safety bureau in Linfen, a coal-rich city 400 kilometers south of Taiyuan, the provincial capital. These workers are said to be in healthy condition.
Wang Hongliang, the legal representative of the mine, and Gao Jianmin, head of the mine, have been held by the police. The mine licenses have been sealed and bank accounts frozen.
Li Yizhong, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, and Zhang Baoshun, Party Secretary of Shanxi Provincial Committee of CPC, have arrived at the scene of the disaster.
Initial investigation shows that the accident was caused by illegal mining activities in the unauthorized No. 9 coal seam.
"The ongoing rescue operation is properly organized, however, we should learn lessons from the disaster, such as strictly banning any illegal mining activities and over-staffing, timely reporting, and not to enter blindly into rescues," Li said.
Shanxi province issued a circular Thursday evening ordering all coal mines to draw experience from the tragedy. Linfen City has suspended operation in all coal mines in the city.
Authorities disagreed with the number of miners trapped in the accident.
A press release published on the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety website at midday reported 40 deaths with 13 survivors and 74 unaccounted for.
The coal mine safety bureau in Linfen, however, would not confirm the figures in a phone interview with Xinhua in the afternoon.
Xinyao pit, owned by Ruizhiyuan Mining Co., is fully licensed and designed to produce 210,000 tons of coal annually. All its licenses are still valid.
Rescue work is underway. Investigators are identifying the victims and determining the cause of the tragedy.