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Lucky miner escapes two pit blasts
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-05-23 05:07

Possibly China's luckiest man has escaped unhurt from a second mining tragedy.

In Thursday's gas blast in the Nuan'erhe coal mine in Hebei Province, 40 miners were killed and 10 others are still missing.

Thirty-four others were rescued.

Survivor Sun Jisheng, 53, was discovered in the shaft by rescue workers at around 4 am on Saturday.

"When rescue workers got 200 metres underground, they found Sun trying to make his way towards us. They got him out around one hour later," said rescue worker Tian Ji'an.

Sun's breathing was weak, but there was little else wrong with him.

In January 2002, Sun was unhurt in a similar explosion that killed 29 and injured 11 at the colliery, which is near the city of Chengde.

A native of Binggou Village in Chengde County, Sun has worked as a security guard for the mine since it was built in December 1982.

"Sun is receiving further treatment," a medical worker at the hospital said, giving no further details.

Up to 100 professional rescuers are still trying to dig any survivors out of the mine.

Forty-nine of the miners working underground were confirmed as locals from Chengde and two are from Qinglong County in Qinhuangdao, a city neighbouring Chengde.

Relatives of the killed and missing are trying to come to terms with their losses.

University student Li Deliang's father works for the colliery.

Like many villagers, Li chose the danger of mines over farming to fund his children's education.

Many villagers see mining as the only way to make decent money because of the scarcity of arable land.

"My father is still trapped - my younger sister is preparing for the national entrance examination next month and I don't know whether to tell her," Li told China News Service.

"If my father is found alive there is no way I will let him go back down there."

Mao Jianguo is waiting for news of his younger brother, Jianmin.

"My younger brother began working as a security guard for the colliery only a month ago. He wasn't trained properly. How will he know how to get out of this?" Mao said.

The local work safety administration has now ordered the coal mine to suspend production.

Just a day after the gas blast, another one hit the Hougou Colliery in Puxian County, North China's Shanxi Province, killing 20. One miner was rescued. The cause is still being investigated.

The nation's coal mine death toll in the first quarter rose 21 per cent from a year ago to 1,113, said the State Administration of Work Safety, although the actual number of incidents fell by 7.4 per cent to 503.

Investigations into the most deadly Chinese mine tragedy in recent years, that left 214 workers dead in February, blamed disregard for worker safety by operators intent only on making money.

The central government has said it will pump 1.8 billion yuan (US$218 million) into improving safety this year.

(China Daily 05/23/2005 page3)

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