88 killed in Heilongjiang coal mine blast, 36 still trapped
Updated: 2005-11-28 15:38
An explosion ripped through a state-owned colliery in northeast China,
killing 88 miners and trapping 36 underground.
A rescuer carries a miner trapped in a coal
mine blast in Qitaihe, in northeast China's Heilongjiang province,
November 28, 2005. An explosion ripped through the colliery, killing 88
miners and trapping 36 underground.
The blast late on Sunday was the latest disaster to strike Heilongjiang,
whose capital city, Harbin, was held hostage for five days by a toxic spill
coursing through the Songhua river that provides its water supply, forcing a
shut-down of tap water.
Li Yizhong, head of the country's top work safety watchdog, urged about 270
rescue workers to spare no effort to save miners trapped at Dongfeng coal mine.
Eighty-eight of 221 men working underground at the time have been killed,
while 97 have been rescued, state radio reported.
Investigators blamed the blast on coal-dust explosion, which knocked out all
ventilation systems in the pit. The main system resumed operation on Monday.
The accident came about two weeks after an explosion at a chemical plant in
nearby Jilin province poured 100 tonnes of cancer-causing benzene compounds into
the Songhua river.
An 80-km (50-mile) slick passed down the Songhua River and out of Harbin at
Making no mention of the toxic spill, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen
Jiabao called last week for vigilance to prevent major accidents which cause
huge casualties and property losses.
They urged law enforcement agencies to implement stricter inspection measures
and punish those responsible in accordance with the law, media reports said
Taps were turned back on in Harbin, home to 9 million people, on Sunday and
Heilongjiang provincial governor Zhang Zuoji drank tap water to prove it was
But officials have warned residents to be on the lookout for symptoms of
benzene poisoning, which can cause anemia, other blood disorders and kidney and
On Monday, all 18 miners trapped by flooding at a separate accident at the
Gaocun mine in the northern province of Hebei were confirmed dead, Xinhua news
agency reported. Three mine managers disappeared soon after the flood, leaving
rescue teams without a guide to search the underground warren.
The country has launched safety campaigns to clean up and shut down illegal
mines in the hope that consolidating China's thousands of tiny and primitive
operations will improve safety. Heilongjiang province said on Monday it would
complete its consolidation by the new year, Xinhua reported.
But booming energy demand and high coal prices have driven some mine owners
to ignore regulations and Sunday's blast, at a state-owned mine, shows that
larger mines are not immune from disasters.
Dongfeng coal mine is run by a branch of the HeilongjiangLongmei Mining
(Group) Co. Ltd. -- a conglomerate of four state-owned major coal businesses in
the province, with a registered capital of 13 billion yuan.
China's worst coal mine accident this year killed 214 people at a state-run
mine in the northeastern province of Liaoning.
Accidents and disasters cause more than 1 million casualties annually in
China. They also bring economic losses of 650 billion yuan each year, equivalent
to 6 percent of gross domestic product, according to Wang Jikun, a senior
official with the Ministry of Public Security.