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Distraught relatives gather outside Chinese mine as rescuers battle deadly coal dust in bid to free 11 trapped miners

 

October 17, 2010. (KATAKAMI / DAILY MAIL.CO.UK) — Dozens of anxious relatives and friends of 11 miners trapped underground by an explosion in central China gathered outside the site today as rescuers battled tons of coal dust in a bid to reach them.

The number of miners confirmed dead rose by five to 26, state media said.

China’s crisis happened as the world was still celebrating Chile’s successful rescue of 33 miners trapped for more than two months.


Distraught: Relatives of the dead and trapped miners in China’s Henan province gathered outside the mine today as rescuers battled tons of coal dust in an effort to rescue them


Deadly: China’s mines are the most dangerous in the world. 195 people died in mining accidents in Henan in August alone

Chinese media had detailed coverage as the Chilean men emerged to cheers.

Some in China asked whether their own officials would make as much of an effort in a similar disaster and be just as open about the progress of rescue efforts.

Yesterday’s blast at the Pingyu Coal & Electric mine occurred as workers were drilling a hole to release pressure from a gas build-up to decrease the risk of explosions, the state work safety administration said.


Guarded: Two dozen police officers were stationed outside the mine’s main gate, preventing anyone from entering the site without authorisation

 

State media said 70 rescuers had been sent to the site in Henan province after the early-morning explosion.

But hopes of rescuing the remaining trapped workers were fading as they were buried under coal and it could take three or four days to try to find them, said a report by China National Radio.

Rescuers also faced dangerous gas levels and the risk of falling rocks as they worked their way into the mine pit.

The explosion unleashed more than 2,500 tons of coal dust, an engineer for one of the mine’s parent companies, Du Bo, told the state-run Xinhua News Agency.

A rescue spokesman told Xinhua that workers had located the trapped miners, but must clear tons of coal dust from the mine shaft to reach them.


Emergency: Rescuers prepare to descend into a mine in central China after an explosion yesterday killed 26 workers and trapped a further 11 underground

Today two dozen police officers were stationed outside the mine’s main gate, preventing anyone from entering the site without authorisation.

About 50 of the trapped miners’ friends and relatives quietly waited outside.

The Chinese government has shut down more than 1,600 small, illegal coal mines this year as part of an effort to improve safety standards, the state-backed People’s Daily newspaper reported on Thursday.

However, an unknown number of illegal mines still exist to profit from the fast-growing economy’s huge appetite for power.


Relief goods: Workers carry supplies into the entrance of the Pingyu No.4 Coal mine in Yuzhou, Henan province

Another gas blast at the same mine two years ago killed 23 people, state media said.

It was not clear if the miners were alive or how far underground they were trapped in the mine in the city of Yuzhou, about 430 miles south of Beijing.

China Central Television’s news channel had an excited live broadcast from the mine yesterday, but it later did not mention the accident on the main TV evening news.

The gas level inside the mine was 40 per cent, far higher than the normal level of about 1 per cent, state media said.

The gas was not specified, but methane is a common cause of mine blasts and coal dust is explosive.

China celebrated its own stunning mine rescue earlier this year, when 115 miners were pulled from a flooded mine in the northern province of Shanxi after more than a week underground.


Rescuers prepare to go underground, where they are battling dangerous levels of gas and the risk of falling coal as they work to free the trapped miners

The miners survived by eating sawdust, tree bark, paper and even coal. Some strapped themselves to the walls of the shafts with their belts to avoid drowning while they slept.

But it was a rare bright spot. At least 195 people were killed in mining accidents during August in Henan this year, according to the provincial coal mine safety bureau.

China’s mines had 6,995 fatalities in 2002, the deadliest year on record whilst about 2,600 people were killed in accidents last years year.

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