Flood traps 181 Chinese coal miners
Sunday, August 19, 2007
XINTAI, China -- Rescuers raced Saturday to pump water out of two coal mines flooded by a rain-swollen river in eastern China, where 181 miners were missing and feared dead.
Water levels were rising, work areas were submerged and the miners "had only slim chances of survival," the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Wang Ziqi, director of Shandong's coal mine safety agency.
Crews installed pipes and five high-speed pumps in the mines in this town southeast of Beijing in Shandong province, Xinhua reported. There was no word on whether there were signs of life.
The Huayuan Mining Co. mine flooded Friday afternoon when the Wen river burst a dike, sending water pouring into a shaft and trapping 172 miners, according to state media reports.
Nine more miners were trapped when water poured into the nearby Minggong Coal Mine on Friday evening, according to Xinhua.
The director of China's industrial safety agency, Li Yizhong, ordered emergency crews to "try every means to rescue the trapped miners," the agency reported.
Storms that swept through the region on Friday and Saturday dumped more than 9 inches of rain, Xinhua said.
Some 2,000 soldiers, police and miners were working Saturday to close the 175-foot gap in the Wen dike, the agency reported.
State television showed work crews dumping sacks of earth and derelict trucks and buses into the gap.
Police blocked surrounding roads and ordered reporters for local Chinese media to leave the area in an effort to control the release of information.
Xinhua cited a miner who said the Huayuan mine had prepared nine pumps in case of flooding. The miner, Xu Qinyu, was quoted as saying the mine control center received a warning at 2:30 p.m. on Friday that the Wen dike was breaking and miners immediately began evacuating.
China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with thousands of deaths a year in fires, floods and other disasters. Many are blamed on managers who disregard safety rules, fail to install required fire-control equipment or push miners to dig more coal than the mine's license allows.