7 detained in NE China coal mine flood

Updated: 2011-08-25 07:49

By  Zhao Yunpeng and Wang Huazhong (China Daily)

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QITAIHE, Heilongjiang - Seven people have been detained for their alleged responsibilities for a coal mine flood that has trapped 26 miners since Tuesday in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, according to local police.

7 detained in NE China coal mine flood

Rescuers prepare to enter a flooded coal pit to rescue trapped workers in a coal mine in Qitaihe city, Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, on Wednesday. [Photo/ Xinhua]

Rescuers were still racing with time late Wednesday in the cold night to pump out water and drill holes for delivering food and air to the trapped workers.

"We still don't know the exact whereabouts of the miners and worry about them," said one of the rescuers who was taking a rest at 9 pm.

"But the water looks like it is being pumped out fast and it seems they still have a chance to survive," said the man whose face and clothes were caked with black coal dust as the drilling machine roared.

A spokesman from the city's public security bureau said those detained include the legal representative of the Hengtai Coal Mining Co, based in Boli county of Qitaihe city, as well as the owner of the mine.

The flooding occurred around 12 am on Tuesday in the illegally operated small pit, where 45 miners were working. Nineteen miners managed to escape.

7 detained in NE China coal mine flood

A preliminary investigation found that workers mistakenly drilled into neighboring deserted mines, causing water seepage and the ensuing flood.

Fu Jinghua, a miner who escaped, said he heard a strange sound of wind when working with two others.

"It was very loud and sounded like whistling," Fu said. "I've never heard a sound so scary like that before."

Fu then turned to his workmate to say something wrong might have happened. They shouted to the third worker who did not respond and the duo ran to the exit as the sound of wind became louder.

Relatives of the trapped are waiting around the pit.

"I have been worried about my father working in the coal mine for a long time," said the daughter of a miner.

According to information provided to China Daily by rescue headquarters, an estimated 40,000 cubic meters of water gushed into the pit.

By 8 pm Wednesday, 5,830 cu m of water had been sucked out by four pipes with hourly capacity of around 500 cu m.

"We can't get in contact with the trapped miners, and we may reach them in two or three days," China Central Television quoted Deng Xiaoqiu, head of the Boli county's work safety bureau, as saying on Tuesday night.

CCTV cited local authorities as saying 20 miners were trapped at a lower mining platform No 10, while five others were at platform No 9 closer to the surface. One was trapped near the water container.

Meanwhile, some of the 400 rescuers at the scene were also busy drilling holes vertically into the ground to reach places the trapped workers might have escaped to.

The channel, which is estimated to go 260 meters underground, would be used to supply air and send food and medicine, according to the bureau head.

Wang Qun, director of the local medical emergency center, told China Daily that doctors have prepared nutritional fluid and a pipe long enough to reach miners if reached.

The flooded pit was part of a smaller mine that was operating illegally, as it was supposed to halt production and be integrated into a larger mine before resuming operations, a spokesman for the rescue operation said.

Following the accident, Huang Yuzhi, deputy chief of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, led a team to the flooded pit to direct the rescue efforts.

The administration has ordered local authorities to verify the number of miners currently trapped in the pit.