HARBIN - Poor operating procedures were believed to be the cause for the coal mine flood that trapped 14 people for 13 days in northeastern Heilongjiang Province.
With no knowledge of the surrounding geological conditions, workers at the Jianbao Coal Mine, in Jixi City, used explosives in the pit and ended up letting in water, said Fang Dongchu, head of the rescue headquarters.
The water might have come from a nearby shaft, which was deserted 20 years ago and held about 500,000 cubic meters of water in a pond.
Fang said that the trapped miners might have escaped to two spots, a mined-out section and another deserted shaft that was connected to the tunnel where the accident occurred.
Rescuers had reached the mined-out area but found nobody there. They had cleared a 300-meter section of the tunnel in the deserted shaft, but it would take another week to cover the rest of the tunnel, Fang said.
The mine, though fully registered, was ordered to suspend operation on January 1 -- like all small coal mines in the province -- for safety checks after a colliery gas blast claimed 19 lives in Muling City in December. But it resumed production before it had received approval to do so.
The accident was uncovered on Monday when the provincial work safety authorities received a tip-off. But the mine manager tried to conceal it, saying that only two people were trapped underground.
The owner, manager and legal representative of the coal mine have been taken into police custody.