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Coal mine death toll expected to reach 151
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-30 05:58

Although no family wants to face death, the provincial government has already announced compensation for relatives of the victims, with payout expected to reach 200,000-220,000 yuan (US$24,600-27,100) for each bereaved family.

And yesterday the coal mine company, Heilongjiang Longmei Mining (Group) Co Ltd, also announced an extra subsidy of 2,000 yuan (US$246) for those families affected.

"I'm also in mourning and maybe I will be punished soon," said Jia Jiguo, head of the company as he tried to calm crowds outside the mine yesterday. Insiders said that mine heads will at least have to take responsibility for the inaccurate attendance list.

The same as Yang's father, Deng Hongwei, Sai Rubo and Yi Xiaoliang were also working the night shift on Sunday. They survived because they left the shaft at around 8 pm, around an hour before the explosion.

Hero in the darkness

Head of the hospital, Shi Guicheng confirmed that a total of 50 miners have been treated in her hospital. Three are in a critical condition.

"All of those in our hospital will be out of danger in one or two weeks, including those in critical condition," said Shi.

Lying on a bed in Qitaihe Coal Mine Bureau Hospital, 41-year-old gas monitor Kuang Pingqiu is still in shock.

Kuang is not only a survivor, he is also a hero for bringing two fellow miners to safety.

Dong Baoliang, 31 and 47-year-old Liang Qinbai, owe their lives to Kuang.

"We didn't know each other before and even now, I've no idea what his name is," said Dong, who lay in the next bed to Kuang.

Dong was cutting up blocks of coal, like a meat slicer, dumping the broken shreds onto a conveyor belt taking it to the surface.

When the explosion happened, he was dumbstruck, his head swam as he fought his way through the network of tunnels.

"I didn't know where to go and just staggered aimlessly. Several times, I tried to wake up some co-workers but failed," said Dong. He does not know what happened to the 21 men he was working with.

He said he finally met Kuang in a tunnel which was relatively rich in oxygen. "At that time, I really didn't know where to go to safety."

After struggling in the tunnel for 12 hours, they reached a lift which took them to the surface.

"You cannot imagine spending 12 hours in underground darkness surrounded by deadly gas," said Kuang.

"I was confident that I could save myself and others," Kuang added. "I saw rescuers waiting in the elevator underground, they acted too slowly."

Rescue headquarters explained that there was danger of a second explosion if rescuers failed to follow the proper procedures.
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