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Coal mine blast death toll soars to 122
By Guan Xiaofeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-26 22:51

The death toll continues to rise after two mining tragedies last week underscored China's lacklustre mining safety conditions.

The death toll from a gas blast at a mine in Henan Province has soared to 122, while a flood at a separate mine in Hebei Province has left 29 trapped underground since last Wednesday.

The family members of the victims of the Daping Coal Mine accidents received 3.7 million yuan (US$ 445,800) and relief materials donated by people at home and abroad Tuesday.

The majority of cash was donated by Chinese power companies, including the Henan Branch of the China Power Investment Co. The coal mine has also received 10,000 pieces of relief materials such as instant noodles, milk and ham sausage so far.

 Sixty-three miners were working underground at the Desheng Coal Mine in Wu'an City last Wednesday, when it flooded at 8 am.

Only 24 miners escaped and 10 others were rescued, but 29 were left trapped underground.

Li Faxiang, a senior official with the Hebei Administration of Work Safety, said the prospects of survival for the trapped miners, six days after the accident, were slim.

"We have plugged up nearby coal mines for fear that the water would flow out and all coal mines in Wu'an would be forced to stop operating," Li said.

Rescue efforts, he vowed, would not stop until the very end.

Local police have put 35 people connected with the accident in custody. Among them are the owners of the coal mine, who tried to cover up the severity of the accident by under-reporting the number of trapped workers at six, instead of the actual 29.

Five big water pumps have been operating day and night since they were brought at the scene three days after the accident took place.

Meanwhile, at the Daping Coal Mine, the site of the deadliest mine explosion this year, the death toll jumped Tuesday from 86 to 122.

Twenty-six people are still missing but they are not likely to be still alive, said an official surnamed Li with the Henan Administration of Safe Production.

Gas exploded at a coal mine owned by the Zhengzhou Coal Industry Group (Zhengmei) at 10:10 pm last Wednesday. Of the 446 miners working underground at the time, only 298 escaped.

Zhengmei is a listed State-owned company based near Zhengzhou, the provincial capital.

Coal mine deaths hit 4,153 in the first nine months of this year, down 630 from the same period last year, official figures show.

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