CHINA / National

Sackings, detentions after mine flood traps 56
Updated: 2006-05-28 11:06

Two Chinese county officials have been sacked, 19 mine and banking officials detained and a manager arrested after a coal mine flood trapped 56 people, Xinhua news agency said.

The 10-day-old accident, happened at the Xinjiang mine in Zuoyun county, north Shanxi province.

"The latest check results show that 56 miners are still trapped in the flooded pit," Xinhua said late on Saturday. "Rescuers are still pumping although hope of finding any of the trapped miners alive is slim."

The number was revised from 57 to 56 after it was discovered one miner had left the mine before the May 18 accident.

An initial investigation found the flooding was due to water pouring in from a worked-out section of a neighbouring mine.

"Preliminary analysis indicates that miners accidentally dug into the disused, water-filled section and flooded the shaft in which they were working," Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, was quoted as saying.

Two local government officials were sacked, one as deputy secretary of the Zuoyun county committee of the Communist Party of China, and one as a committee member.

The only arrest so far has been of a manager in charge of safety who was discovered in remote neighbouring Inner Mongolia.

Xinhua did not say what charges he faced, nor why two bank officials had been detained.

Rescuers at the mine had said that hush money had been offered to families of trapped victims to allow the case to be handled "privately", state media said on Friday.

"Police say local authorities had tried to cover up the accident by reporting that only five miners were trapped," Xinhua said.

"Mine managers are alleged to have rented taxis to transfer relatives of the trapped miners to neighbouring Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to prevent them from speaking to the media."

More than 3,000 coal mine blasts, floods and other accidents killed nearly 6,000 workers across China last year, as owners, motivated by soaring profits, pushed production past safe limits to fuel the nation's booming economy.