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Death toll rises to 86 in coal mine explosion
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-26 01:24

The death toll from a deadly coal mine blast at the Daping Coal Mine in Henan Province has risen to 86.

Rescue headquarters confirmed yesterday that four more bodies were recovered. Search efforts are ongoing to find 62 miners still missing.

In the deadliest mine accident this year, gas exploded in a mine owned by the Zhengzhou Coal Industry Group, or Zhengmei, at 10:10 pm last Wednesday when 446 miners were working underground. Only 298 escaped.

The blast ravaged three mining areas. The ensuing collapse blocked tunnels and damaged electric cables and transport equipment.

The temperature and the density of the harmful gas remained high, making it difficult for rescue work to continue, said Liu Xinshu, head of the Zhengmei rescue brigade.

Rescuers have restored 12 underground ventilation stations and cleared debris at 11 collapsed tunnel sections, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Rescuers reported waist deep underground water, as hot as 60 C, and air permeated with poisonous gas.

In two laneways, workers were still trying to discharge the deadly, concentrated gas.

Two fans are being used to pump out gas in order to create a safe environment for further rescue and an investigation into the ill-fated coal mine in Xinmi City, Central China's Henan Province.

One more fan may be added to speed up the work.

"It's been a hard day for us rescuers," said Liu Xinshu, head of the rescue team of the coal company.

"This was the worst coal mine accident I've seen in more than 30 years, and the rescue work is a tough challenge," he said.

While working to restore the ventilation facility and lower the concentration of gas, it is also imperative to restore the watering and dust prevention mechanism and to pump out gas to prevent new explosions, said Zhao Tiechui during a rescue briefing.

Zhao is the deputy director of the State Administration for Supervision over Safety in Workplaces.

As identification of the bodies continues, compensation has begun to be issued to the families.

Six victims' families have received compensation. Other families of miners who were confirmed dead are still negotiating with the mine, sources said.

Local police are conducting DNA tests on 15 bodies that have yet to be identified, said Yu Ertao, an executive of the Daping Coal Mine.

In another accident, the chances of survival are slim for 29 workers trapped in a coal mine flooded since Wednesday in North China's Hebei Province, local authorities said yesterday.

The accident occurred at about 6:00 am at the Desheng Coal Mine in Wu'an City when 63 people were working underground. Twenty-four people escaped on their own, and another ten were rescued.

So far 35 people who may have been connected to the accident or may cover up the accident are in custody. An account with more than six million yuan (725.5 thousand US dollars) of the coal mine in Wu'an and its shareholders has been frozen, Xinhua News Agency reported.

China had 4,153 deaths from coal mine accidents in the first nine months of this year.

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