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63 killed so far in mine disaster; survival chances dim
By Ma Lie (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-30 01:23

The death toll at the Tongchuan coal mine disaster in Shaanxi Province in Northwest China now stands at 63, and officials say there is little chance the 103 miners still trapped underground could survive.

The gas blast early Sunday morning at the Chenjiashan Coal Mine in Tongchuan trapped 166 miners underground and the recovery work has been extremely difficult, because of high temperatures and poisonous gases inside the mine, said Huo Shichang, director of Shaanxi Provincial Coal Industry Administration Bureau.

Experts said that burning coal caused by the gas blast increased the temperature and gases inside and likely has killed the miners still underground.

Li Jianguo, secretary of Shaanxi Provincial Committee of Chinese Communist Party, demanded the rescuers"use every possible means in as little time as possible" to recover the miners. He said the rescue work  "should not be stopped before the last miner is found alive or dead."

A rescuer who just came up from the tunnel told China Daily that he did not see any missing or dead miners when he went as deep as about 3,800 metres in the tunnel.

"The gas blast point should have been at No 415 working site which is some 7,000 metres from the well entrance, and then dozens of miners were toiling there. The missing workers should be at the No 416 working site, some 8,000 metres from the entrance," the rescuer said.

The rescuer said the dead bodies were found at the No 415 work site, but had not been carried out yet, because the mine tubs could not reach there due to still burning fires that would make it impossible for the recovery team to pass through to the site.

In total, 293 miners were working underground when the accident happened, and 127 escaped. Among them, 43 were injured, a local official said.

At present, 42 are in stable condition, with one still in intensive care. Their injuries include burns, various abrasions and other wounds, and carbon monoxide poisoning,, doctors said.

You Quan, the State Council's deputy secretary-general who arrived at the accident-hit mine Sunday night with the State Council working group, urged the investigating group to find the accident's cause as soon as possible.

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