Little hope of finding 11 missing miners, rescue workers say
Rescuers said on Sunday that there was little hope of finding 11 missing miners alive after they were trapped underground following a gas explosion at a mine in the central province of Henan on Saturday that killed 26 people.
AFP - Rescuers said Sunday there was little hope of finding alive 11 miners trapped underground after a gas explosion in a central Chinese coal mine that killed 26 of their comrades.
Du Bo, the deputy director of the rescue operation, said it would take days to find the miners, who were trapped when a "sudden coal and gas outburst" hit Saturday in the central province of Henan, state media reported.
"There is not much of a chance that the 11 trapped miners could have survived and it will take three to four days to find them," Du was quoted as saying by the official China News Service.
The missing miners were likely buried amid the more than 2,500 tonnes of coal dust that smothered the pit after the gas leak, suffocating most of the victims, Du said, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
A total of 276 miners were at work below ground when the disaster happened in the city of Yuzhou and 239 managed to make it to the surface, the national work safety agency said, confirming the death and missing toll.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera offered to help China, saying his country had learned from the San Jose mine disaster, where 33 miners were trapped for two months before being pulled out alive last week in a dramatic rescue watched around the world.
"If we can be of any help, they know that they can count on us," Pinera said during a visit to London.
China's latest tragedy highlights the poor safety conditions in its mines, in which over 2,600 miners perished last year, according to official figures.
Rescuers said the missing miners were 50 to 80 metres (165 to 260 feet) below the pit entrance but the heavy dust slowed their progress through the narrow tunnels.
The Henan mine is owned by a consortium that includes China Power Investment Corp. -- a major state-owned power producer, Xinhua said.
Chinese mines are notoriously dangerous due to the widespread flouting of safety rules, typically blamed on corrupt mine operators trying to keep costs down, with coal mining particularly accident-prone.
China's poor safety record has come under fresh scrutiny after the successful rescue of the Chilean miners gripped the world, sparking comparisons with China's litany of deadly disasters.
Last year, 2,631 Chinese miners were killed, according to official statistics, but independent labour groups say the true figure is likely to be much higher as many accidents are believed to be covered up.
Twenty-three miners died in a gas explosion at the same mine in Yuzhou in 2008, state media reported.
In July, Premier Wen Jiabao lamented China's "serious" work safety situation, ordering mining bosses to work side-by-side with workers in the pits to ensure companies observed safety rules.
To satisfy that requirement, a deputy chief engineer was in the Yuzhou mine at the time of the explosion and helped evacuate miners, the China News Service reported.
The government has repeatedly vowed to shut dangerous mines and increase safety, but the accidents continue with regularity as mines hustle to pump out the coal on which China relies for about 70 percent of its energy.
Some state media editorials said China should learn from the better training and safety systems of Chilean mines.
China had its own "miracle" mine rescue in April when 115 miners were rescued after more than a week trapped underground in a flooded mine shaft in the northern province of Shanxi.