Deadly end to China coal mine heist: 10 suffocate

BEIJING — Ten people suffocated during a botched robbery at a coal mine in northern China, the country’s work safety watchdog said Friday. Fourteen people allegedly broke into the shuttered mine in China’s Shanxi province on Monday, with two managing to escape the underground tunnels Tuesday, the State Administration of Work Safety said on its Web site. On Wednesday, two others were rescued and 10 bodies were recovered, it said.

It was not immediately clear if the victims had been trapped underground by a cave-in or had gotten lost.

A police officer from Dianwan township, where the accident occurred, said an investigation was under way and that the victims likely suffocated or were poisoned by toxic gas. Like many Chinese bureaucrats he refused to give his name.

The safety watchdog said the mine was ordered closed by local officials last October, and the main entrance had been blasted to keep people out. The alleged robbers dug a new tunnel to get into the shaft, it said, and were trying to take equipment, cables and metal railings, it said. The survivors have been detained by police.

The watchdog did not say why the mine was shut but the government has been closing down thousands of small, poorly managed mines in an effort to curb the industry’s high death toll.

China’s mines are the world’s deadliest, with an average of six miners killed daily in the first half of this year. Most accidents are blamed on failures to follow safety rules, including a lack of required ventilation or fire control equipment.


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