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Hopes rise for men trapped in flooded coal mine
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-12-06 05:52

Forty-two miners trapped underground after an outlawed coal mine in Central China flooded last Friday are likely to survive as pumpers work around the clock, say reports.

China News Agency claimed that rescuers hoped to be able to bring the men to safety as the water level underground has been decreasing by about 1 metre per hour.

Officials with the State Administration of Work Safety refused to comment on the report, but said they were still continually pumping water from the Sigou Coal Mine in Xin'an County of Henan Province to try to save the miners.

The coal mine was already on the province's list of mines due to be shut down in September.

Meanwhile, one more body has been found at the site of the November 27 coal mine explosion in Northeast China, taking the death toll to 170.

The victims at Dongfeng Coal Mine in Qitaihe of Heilongjiang Province included 168 miners working underground and two female workers in the generator room on the surface.

Rescuers are still searching for the last person missing from the accident. Latest figures said that 242 miners were working underground when the blast occurred, and only 73 of them were saved.

Bodies of 157 out of the 170 miners killed in the accident have been cremated and their families given compensation payments.

Yesterday, provincial safety watchdog heads reported the latest development of the accidents at a national televised conference on safety.

Li Yizhong, minister of the State Administration of Work Safety repeatedly, urged: "Governments and safety watchdogs at various levels should be alarmed by the recent string of accidents.

"We should learn lessons from the accidents and try hard to approach festival time as New Year and Spring Festival draw near."

He severely criticized the Dongfeng Coal Mine, which was State-owned, for its lax management. The accident is among five coal mine disasters since last October which have each killed at least 100 miners.

"Four of them belong to the State-owned enterprises and so we should not be optimistic about the safety situation in these kind of mines," said Li.

However, the government has focused its energy on closing those small and private shafts this year, which do not to meet the government's safety standards.

Li said at least 4,000 unsafe coal mines will be shut down by the end of the year and the campaign to sever links between government officials and colliery owners should be strengthened.

Safety watchdogs halted production at 12,148 coal mines in the first 10 months of the year to enforce safety regulations.

Li said that reducing accidents and shutting down unlicensed collieries were among the tough jobs facing the work safety departments at the moment.

"The difficulty is that some local governments and mines have not become aware of the importance our decisions," said Li. "I hope they can really learn something from the recent accidents."

(China Daily 12/06/2005 page3)

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