One dead, 31 trapped in latest coal mine tragedy”]
BEIJING: One person is dead and 31 remain trapped after a flood in the pit of a coal mine in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region on Monday evening, safety authorities said.
The accident happened at 7:29 am when 77 people were working in the pit of Luotuoshan Coal Mine in the city of Wuhai, 600 km from the autonomous regional capital Hohhot, said Wuhai Energy Co Ltd in a statement on its website.
By 2 pm, 45 miners were evacuated or rescued from the pit, and one was found dead.
As of 7 pm Monday, “the 31 other miners are still trapped in the mine, and no progress has been made”, said an official surnamed Gao, who is with the autonomous region’s coal mine supervisory body.
The trapped miners were working at two places – 12 people at 189 meters underground, and 19 others at 289 meters underground, according to a Xinhua News Agency report.
Premier Wen Jiabao ordered on Monday evening that rescue efforts continue as quickly as possible to save those who are trapped. Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang was headed for the site on Monday to monitor the rescue operation.
Although powerful water pumps have been brought to the site, rescue efforts were difficult since the miners’ position is not exactly known, experts said.
To assist in the rescue operation, the State Administration of Work Safety sent an expert team Monday afternoon, headed by the administration chief Luo Lin and deputy chief Zhao Tiechui. The team is expected to help analyze the source of the flood in order to cut or control the water flow.
Five ambulances and dozens of medical workers were on standby at the scene.
According to official figures, 2,631 coal miners died in 1,616 mine accidents last year, down by 18 percent and 17 percent respectively year on year, due to the firmer grip on coal mining safety in recent years.
The deadliest incident occurred in Heilongjiang province in November 2009, claiming 108 lives.
As a major coal producer, Inner Mongolia has kept a good safety record in the past few years, despite its fast growing coal production.
Last year, it overtook neighboring Shanxi province as China’s largest crude coal producer, by producing 637 million tons of coal, up 37 percent on the preceding year.
Meanwhile, the region boasts the lowest number of deaths. According to official figures, the area reported 21 mine accidents and 33 deaths last year.
The autonomous region’s government is aiming for a bigger goal of producing 730 million tons of coal this year, up by 16 percent from a year earlier.
The flooded coal mine, belonging to Wuhai Energy Co Ltd under Shenhua Group Corporation Limited, one of China’s mining giants, is designed to produce 1.5 million tons a year.
China’s gross crude coal output reached 2.95 billion tons last year.