Flood traps 153 coal miners in northern China
TAIYUAN, China (AP) – Rescuers raced to pump water out of a north China coal mine Monday in efforts to save 153 workers trapped when a flood of underground water rushed through the tunnels, the country’s work safety agency said.
The accident in the Wangjialing coal mine on Sunday would be one of the worst in recent years if rescue efforts fail and would set back marked safety improvements in China’s deadly mines.
Some 261 workers were inside the mine when it flooded, and 108 escaped or were rescued, China’s State Administration of Work Safety said in a statement on its Web site early Monday.
Pipes and pumping equipment had been delivered to the site and water was being pumped out of the mine, Liu Dezheng, a chief engineer with the work safety bureau in Shanxi province, where Wangjialing is located, said during a televised news conference Monday.
China Central Television showed workers pushing trolleys loaded with water pipes toward the mine and a row of ambulances standing at the ready.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported that President Hu Jintao ordered local authorities to “spare no effort” in saving the trapped workers.
Authorities had said Sunday night that 123 workers were missing after the mine flooded but then overnight revised the figure upward. No immediate explanation was given for the change.
Wangjialing, about 400 miles (650 kilometers) southwest of Beijing, has been under construction since April 2007 and was expected to start production later this year, the China Daily newspaper reported.
The mine’s parent company, Huajin Coking Coal Co., is co-owned by China’s second-largest coal mining company, the China National Coal Group Corp., with the remaining 50 percent stake owned by the Shanxi Coking Coal Group Co., another major miner.
China has dramatically improved safety even as it rapidly ramped up mining of coal, which fuels about 70 percent of the country’s voracious energy needs. Accidents killed 2,631 coal miners last year, less than half the 6,995 deaths in 2002, the most dangerous year on record, according to the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety.
That means on average more than 7 miners die every day, down from 19.1 in 2002.
Much of the improvement has come from shutting down smaller operators or forcing them into mergers with better-funded state companies.
The worst accidents in recent years include a coal mine flood in eastern Shandong province in August 2007 that left 172 miners dead and a mine blast in northeastern Liaoning province in February 2005 that killed 214 miners.