Death toll hits five in coal and gas outburst

Updated: 2010-04-21 00:37
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GAO'AN - At least five miners died and seven were missing in a coal and gas eruption early Tuesday at a coal mine in east China's Jiangxi Province, local authorities said.

The accident occurred at 5:28 a.m. when 12 miners were working in a shaft of the Xingfeng Coal Mine in Jianshan town, Gao'an city, according to the city government's information office.

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The missing miners' chances of survival were slim as the gas would prove lethal if they were not crushed to death by a pile of coal, said a spokesman for the rescue headquarters.

Police detained the mine's owner, but did not disclose the owner's name.

Hundreds of tonnes of coal, which had jammed the shaft, would take two to three days to clear, and the gas concentration was quite high, which hindered the rescue operation, he said.

"Rescuers are using electric fans to blow the gas out in preparation for clearing up the shaft," he said.

Rescuers retrieved five bodies before noon, said a rescue spokesman at the scene.

The shift had altogether 13 miners, but one worker, Chen Guohua, was on leave Tuesday.

"I was building my house so I did not go to work today. Now this terrible accident happened, I don't think I would ever dare go down the shaft again," Chen said.

All the miners were residents of Gao'an city.

The State Administration of Coal Mine Safety has sent officials to oversee the rescue.