Death toll rises to 8 after coal mine floods (China)

LEIYANG, CHINA (BNO NEWS) — Rescue workers in central China have recovered the last two victims from a coal mine accident earlier this month, raising the final death toll to eight, local authorities said on Monday. Eight other miners were earlier rescued alive after being trapped for several days.

The accident occurred at around 6 p.m. local time on July 4 when 40 people were working underground at the Qielichong coal mine in Sandu township, located near the city of Leiyang in Hunan province. Twenty-four people managed to escape safely, but sixteen people were trapped.

Eight of the miners were rescued four days after the flooding, and officials had expressed little hope of finding any more survivors. Several bodies were recovered in the following weeks, with the final two victims being recovered on late Sunday, raising the overall death toll to eight, according to a spokesperson for the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.

Earlier, officials said the incident at the mine had not been reported to local authorities until about 6:30 a.m. local time on July 5, delaying the rescue operation by more than 12 hours. It remains unclear clear why officials were not alerted to the incident, and police have arrested mine owner Liu Yaping while an investigation continues. He remains in custody.

Safety conditions at mines in China have significantly improved in recent years but they remain among the world’s most dangerous with 1,083 fatalities in the first seven months of 2011 alone. There were 2,433 fatalities in 2010 and 2,631 in 2009.

China in recent years shut down scores of small mines to improve safety and efficiency in the mining industry. The country has also ordered all mines to build emergency shelter systems by June 2013 which are to be equipped with machines to produce oxygen and air conditioning, protective walls and airtight doors to protect workers against toxic gases and other hazardous factors.

The first manned test of such a permanent underground chamber was carried out in August when around 100 people – including managers, engineers, miners, medical staff, and the chamber’s developers – took part in a 48-hour test at a mine owned by the China National Coal Group in the city of Shuozhou in northern China’s Shanxi Province.

One of the worst mining accidents in China in recent years happened in November 2009 when 104 workers were killed after several explosions at a coal mine in Heilongjiang province.


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