Friday August 31, 2012
Death toll in China mine blast rises to 37 (Updated)
BEIJING: The death toll from a gas explosion at a coal mine in China has risen to 37, with another 10 people trapped, authorities said Friday, in one of the country's worst mining accidents of the last year.
There were 154 workers underground when the blast hit the Xiaojiawan mine in southwest China's Sichuan province on Wednesday morning - the latest in a string of fatal incidents for an industry known for poor safety standards.
Rescue workers have struggled to gain access to the area where the miners are trapped, hampered by temperatures as high as 90 degrees Celsius (190 degrees Fahrenheit) and high levels of poisonous carbon monoxide gas.
Emergency crews have pulled 34 bodies from the mine, while another three workers were rescued but later died of their injuries, the official Xinhua news agency said. Another 17 are being treated for serious injuries.
The city government could not immediately be reached for comment, but a statement posted online confirmed that the death toll had risen to 37. State media said on Thursday that 26 had died.
It is believed to be the worst coal mining accident to hit China since an explosion last November in a mine in southwestern Yunnan province killed 43 people.
It is not clear whether the 10 remaining trapped miners are still alive, but state media reports said 145 more rescuers had been dispatched to the site of the disaster on Thursday.
The China Daily, quoting the government's head of mine safety, said the roof of the mine was also in danger of collapsing, further hampering rescue efforts.
Authorities have detained three mine owners and frozen the mine's accounts while they investigate the incident and have begun discussing compensation with the victims' families, the China Daily said.
China's mines are among the world's deadliest due to lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency. Accidents are common because safety is often neglected by bosses seeking quick profits.
The latest official figures show 1,973 people died in coal mining accidents in China in 2011, a 19 percent fall on the previous year.
Labour rights groups, however, say the actual death toll is likely to be much higher, partly due to under-reporting of accidents as mine bosses seek to limit their economic losses and avoid punishment.
China is the world's leading consumer of coal, relying on the fossil fuel for 70 percent of its growing energy needs. - AFP