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Coal mine blast kills 62 workers, traps 86
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-21 22:34

Sixty-two miners are dead and another 86 are still stranded underground after a gas blast at the Daping coal mine in Central China's Henan Province, safety officials said Thursday.

Two rescuers carry the body of a dead miner out of the coal pit in the Daping Coal Mine in Central China's Henan Province October 21, 2004. The Chinese characters above the gate read "Safety Is the Utmost Priority." Death toll from the mine gas blast has increased to 62, and 86 are still missing. Rescue operation still goes on. [newsphoto]

Ambulances arrive at the coal mine for the rescue operation October 21, 2004. [Xinhua]
Conditions of the missing coal miners is unknown, while officials continue around-the-clock rescue efforts, a mine official said.

The cause of the blast is still under investigation.

The accident took place at 10:10 pm on Wednesday. A gas monitoring system shows that just minutes earlier, gas density increased from 1.49 per cent to 40 per cent in the entire mine.

A total of 446 miners were at work in the mine when the accident occurred. Some 298 miners escaped, with 21 injured.

All the injured, including four severely cases, were sent to the General Hospital affiliated with the Zhengzhou Coal Industry Group. A detailed casualty list has not yet been made available.

At the office building of the Daping Coal Mine, bodies of victims were covered with green canvas awaiting identification, the Xinhua News Agency said.

A miner waits anxiously for news about the fate of his co-workers stranded underground in the Daping Coal Mine in Central China's Henan Province October 21. The gas blast accident Wednesday night has killed 62 miners and 86 others are missing. [newsphoto]

"So many patients were sent to the hospital at one blow, the number of the doctors and nurses on duty was not enough. Therefore we had to call all doctors, nurses, logistics and office staff to take part in the medical care," said a nurse from the hospital, who declined to give her name.

"We have continued working, some of us are too busy to eat anything," she said.

Some of the professors and chief physicians came from as far as the College of Medicine at Zhengzhou University and many other larger hospitals in Henan Province.

An official at the hospital said many of the injured miners suffered smoke inhalation or skin lacerations when they escaped.

When I saw these patients they were all black. It was hard to distinguish their original appearance," a nurse recalled of the chaos.

"We helped them to clean their bodies and changed their clothes into new and clean underwear, which were brought in by logistics staff after the patients arrived."

"Some of the patients can't eat by themselves, so we feed them meals and water," she said.

"We chat with some of the lightly injured patients... most of them didn't want to recall the tragic panic of the disaster," she said.

At the scene, most of the patients are already out of danger, but the doctors and nurses are still closely watching for sudden changes. Located under the Songshan Mountain, 40 kilometres to the southwest of Zhengzhou, the State-owned Daping Coal Mine had 4,100 employees.

Put into operation in 1986, the mine had annual coal production of 1.3 million tons.

The local government sent more than 1,000 rescue workers to the site, reports said.

According to experiences in previous coal mine disasters caused by gas explosions, hope for the missing miners is fleeting, deputy administrator of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS) Sun Huashan said at a news conference yesterday.

The accident was the deadliest coal mine disaster by far this year, Sun said.

He said that a special team with SAWS leadership has been sent to the site of the blast.

The density of the gas underground should be closely monitored while rescue efforts continue.

A nationally televised conference on work safety at the country's coal mines would be also arranged for yesterday afternoon, Huang said.

In another accident in Southwest China's Chongqing, six miners died and seven other were missing after a gas leak in a grim reminder that the world's biggest mining industry is also the most dangerous, with thousands of people killed in explosions, floods and other mishaps every year.

Work safety officials have racked their brains for ways to reduce the death toll from mining accidents through the closure of small-scale unsafe, illegal mines and raising safety standards.

However, lured by the profits, many small mine owners and local officials have quietly re-opened dangerous pits in many places in recent years.

Sun said SAWS will co-operate with labour supervision departments to actively implement insurance systems for industrial injuries.

He also urged enterprises themselves to shoulder responsibility for accidents and protect the life and property rights for their employees through insurance.

China has put forward special laws on insurance for industrial injuries, which, however, have been carried out in an "unbalanced" way throughout the country, he said.

The overall work safety situation has been improved this year, Sun noted.

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