Frantic search underway for trapped miners
Rescue workers are trying to find 153 workers trapped in a flooded coal mine in northern China's Shanxi province. Rescuers have saved 108 miners since Sunday. The flood is the latest in a series of disasters to hit the country's mining sector.
AFP - Rescuers worked frantically Monday to try to find more than 150 workers trapped in a flooded coal mine being built in northern China, the latest disaster to hit the dangerous mining sector.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered local authorities to do everything possible to save the workers at the vast Wangjialing mine in Shanxi province, where the accident took place on Sunday.
The flood was the latest in a series of accidents plaguing China's coal mines, which are among the most dangerous in the world. More than 2,600 coal miners were killed in the country last year, according to official data.
If the trapped miners are not rescued, the accident will be the deadliest in China in years. In November 2005, at least 51 miners were killed and 100 others officially listed as missing after an explosion in a mine in the northeast.
So far, investigations have shown that 261 workers were in the Wangjialing pit as water started to gush in. The rescue headquarters said 108 were brought to safety, but 153 were trapped underground, Xinhua reported Monday.
A probe has been launched into the cause of the accident at the mine, which belongs to the state-owned Huajin Coking Coal company and covers an area of 180 square kilometres (70 square miles).
"Most of the trapped are migrant workers from Shanxi, Hebei, Hunan and Guizhou provinces," a rescuer said, referring to areas across a swathe of central China.
Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang was immediately dispatched to the scene to oversee rescue efforts.
Safety standards are often ignored in China's coal mines in the quest for profits and the drive to meet surging demand for coal -- the source of about 70 percent of the country's energy.
In November, 108 miners were killed when an explosion ripped through a coal mine belonging to another state-owned firm in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.
And this month, 25 people died in a coal mine fire in Henan province.