26 Dead in Henan’s Coal Mine Gas Blast

The photo taken on Wednesday, Dec 8, 2010 shows the Suzhuang Coal Mine where a gas blast occurred at 7:40 p.m. Tuesday in Mianchi County, Sanmenxia City of central China's Henan province. Photo: Xinhua

The death toll from a gas explosion in a coal mine in central China’s Henan Province Tuesday has risen to 26, local rescue headquarters said Wednesday.

Forty-six miners were working underground when the blast occurred at 5:40 p.m. at the Juyuan Coal Mine, in Mianchi County, Sanmenxia City, about 300 km from the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, said Li Guoqi, deputy chief engineer of Yi Ma Coal Industry Group, the mine’s prospective parent company. At a news conference held by the rescue headquarters, Li said 20 of the miners were lifted to safety after the accident, and all the dead had been removed from the shaft.

Rescuers had to vent toxic gases from the mine before they could enter.

The mine, capable of producing 150,000 tonnes of coal a year, had been closed for technical upgrading. Safety hazards were supposed to have been dealt with before it resumed operation, Li said.

However, the mine owner, Suo Yonggang, had ordered miners to work down the mine, Li said.

Previously known as the Suzhuang Coal Mine, the mine is being merged into Yi Ma Coal Industry Group, a state-owned conglomerate, which has renamed it “Juyuan Coal Mine.”

But as the mine’s assets have not been transferred, its ownership has not changed.

A supervisor sent to the mine by Yi Ma Coal Industry Group left for a safety training course 200 km away in Jiaozuo City on the day of the accident.

An accurate death toll was not immediately known because Suo appeared to have fled after the accident and the management of the mine was chaotic, Li said.

He said police questioning had revealed allegations that Suo had concealed the bodies of four victims in the shaft, but he gave no further details.

The police are investigating the accident and attempting to locate Suo.

Yi Ma Coal Industry Group has coal mines in five provinces and regions across the country and employs 50,000 workers. The group is valued at 15.7 billion yuan, according to its website.



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