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Mine death toll rises to 86, hopes slim
By Qin Yuding (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-25 08:14

The death toll at the Daping Coal Mine continues to rise.

A total of 86 bodies were pulled from the mine by rescuers working around the clock while 62 miners were still missing by Monday morning.

An exhausted rescuer takes a break after searching for survivors underground at a Xinmi coal mine in Central China's Henan Province October 22, 2004. The death toll from the mine gas blast Wednesday night has risen to 79, with 69 others still missing. [newsphoto]

There was slim hope anyone else would be brought out alive from the mine, which filled with deadly gas and ignited on Wednesday in Central China's Henan Province.

According to China Central Television Station, the majority of the trapped miners were local residents and 62 of the victims were already identified.

About 1,300 relatives of the victims were rushed to the scene.

Li Hongshan, deputy head of the rescue team said that after 66 hours of work, ventilation and electricity has been partly restored to mining areas, Xinhua reported.

He said a total of 255 rescuers had descended into the caved-in mine shaft, however, a gush of accumulated poisonous gas slowed down rescue efforts.

The Daping blast was just one of several coal mine accidents in recent days.

On Friday, 15 coal miners were killed by an underground gas explosion in Southwest China's Guizhou Province.

Six miners were killed and seven were missing at another coal mine in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality on Wednesday.

Though there is not much hope of finding anybody alive, rescuers were still searching for 29 coal miners trapped since Wednesday by flooding in the Desheng Mine in the city of Wu'an in North China's Hebei province.

Sun Huashan, deputy director of the State Administration of Work Safety, announced at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday that the death toll from coal mine accidents between January and August this year totalled 3,457.

The Daping blast was the deadliest incident this year.

According to Xinhua, many observers reached on Friday blamed mine operators for their poor awareness of production safety as the major factor behind the frequent accidents.

Li Xiguang, a professor with Tsinghua University said the frequent accidents point to new problems emerging in the wake of fast economic growth.

Li, who once worked as a coal miner, said that the government attaches great importance to the principle of "putting people first" and work safety.

However, many coal mine operators are short-sighted and fail to invest enough in safety facilities while milking backward and aging equipment for as much profit as possible.

The Daping Mine, part of the State-owned Zhengzhou Coal Industry Group stopped production on Friday. The mine was the site of three fatal accidents before, and other mines from the group have been hit by frequent accidents.

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