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Pit disater set to be nation's worst this year
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily/Xinhua)
Updated: 2004-10-23 00:25

The death toll in the Central China coal mine accident rose to 66 on Friday, a figure set to rise as hopes of rescuing the 82 missing miners fades.

Rescuers found another two bodies underground in the Daping pit on Friday afternoon, said an official with the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS). Efforts to try and reach the missing are continuing.

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]
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao ordered local officials in Henan Province to use"every possible means" to reach the trapped men, reports Xinhua.

A total of 446 miners were working underground when a blast ripped through the Daping Coal Mine, part of the State-owned Zhengzhou Coal Industry Group on Wednesday evening. Two hundred and ninety-eight miners managed to escape, but the rest were trapped underground.

And at another colliery in North China's Hebei Province flooding has left 29 miners trapped underground, revealed the official.

Water flooded the privately-owned Desheng Coal Mine in Wuan also on Wednesday. Thirty-four miners managed to get out in the immediate aftermath.

 Rescue work at the Desheng mine was hampered by the lies of the pit owner who told work safety officials only six miners were trapped underground after the accident.

The majority of those killed in the Daping disaster were suffocated by the toxic gas that spewed from the coal bed and ignited, reports said.

 "For so many years, I have not met such a miserable tragedy like this,'' recalled survivor Zhang Juyou, 43. Of more than 30 miners in Zhang's group only six escaped the fatal gas explosion.

One of Zhang's colleagues, Gao Wusong, who left the pit just an hour before the accident, described hearing a muffled blast underground, so powerful it shook their dormitory quarters.

At the time of going to press, rescuers had reduced the average gas density to normal and repaired a major passageway overnight to ease the flow of rescuers and rescue vehicles, said Li Hongshan, an official in charge of production at Daping.

Large areas of short tunnels north of the affected area are yet to be repaired and two more locations still report high gas density owing to ventilation failures, reports said.

The monitoring system at the rescue headquarters showed by Friday morning that communication has not yet been restored at several locations in the pit. At 9:20 am on Friday, four lorry loads of cable were delivered to the mine by the Pingmei Group to replace those destroyed in the blast.

The provincial government moved rapidly to organize the rescue operation, while a 14-member working team from the State Council, headed by Secretary-General of the State Council Hua Jianmin, arrived at the mine on Thursday afternoon, reports Xinhua.

Production was suspended at all the coal mines belonging to the group for work safety inspections.

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