CHINA / Regional

Rescuers find bodies of 56 trapped miners
Updated: 2006-06-29 08:14

The rescue work in a flooded coal mine in Zuoyun, North China's Shanxi Province came to an end on Wednesday with the recovery of the last body of the 56 miners, sources with the rescue headquarters said on Wednesday.

The sources said the investigation into the accident on May 18 is still under way despite the end of rescue work.

The rescuers have pumped most of the water out of the mine. They found the first body on June 14 after pumping out water for weeks.

Zhang Baoshun, secretary of the Shanxi Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, praised the rescuers for their efforts and ordered a thorough investigation into the accident.

A total of 266 workers were working in the shaft when the accident took place, and 210 of them managed to escape.

The rescue operation was hampered after the mine owner destroyed all the design drawings and others documents of the mine.

The mine had a license to produce 90,000 tons a year, but had produced 130,000 tons from March 2 to May 18.

Two county leaders of Zuoyun resigned after the accident and the 11 coal mine owners have been arrested.

Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), said earlier this month that more unsafe coal mines in China must be closed and urged local governments across the country to learn lessons from the May 18 coal mine flooding.

China will shut down an additional 7,000 small coal mines to bring their total number below 10,000 before 2008, according to Li.

Initial investigations found that miners drilled through a sealed area underground, which triggered the flooding. But this could have been avoided as the mine showed signs of flooding six days before the accident occurred. However, miners were ordered by the management to go on working despite the risk.

Local safety authorities had tried to cover up the fatal accident by reporting that only five miners were trapped. The mine management also rented taxis to transfer family members of the trapped miners to the neighboring Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to prevent them from speaking to the press.