Death toll rises to 64 in Chinese mine explosion

The death toll in a gas explosion in a Chinese coal mine rose to 64 today, and chances 84 missing miners might still be alive were “quite slim,” the government said.

The death toll in a gas explosion in a Chinese coal mine rose to 64 today, and chances 84 missing miners might still be alive were “quite slim,” the government said.

Wednesday’s disaster in the central province of Henan was the deadliest this year in China’s accident-plagued mines. Newspapers carried front-page photos of anxious relatives waiting outside the mine as haggard rescuers carried out bodies wrapped in green canvas.

President Hu Jintao ordered local officials to use “every possible means” to find the missing miners.

The blast ripped through the Daping Mine when 446 miners were at work, according to the government. It said 298 escaped alive.

By this morning, there were no reports any survivors had been found by the 1,000-member rescue force.

“The survival chance for the missing is quite slim,” the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The state-owned Daping Mine employs 4,100 people and is located in the Songshan Mountains, about 25 miles south-west of the major industrial city of Zhengzhou.

Most of the dead miners whose bodies had been found so far were suffocated by the toxic gas that spewed from the coal bed and ignited.

The gas density in the mine’s atmosphere shot up from 2% to 40% in less than three minutes, Xinhua said.

China’s coal mines are the world’s deadliest, with thousands of deaths reported every year in explosions, underground floods and other accidents often blamed on negligence or lack of safety equipment. Poor ventilation is another common problem.

A government report released yesterday said 4,153 people were killed in fires, floods and other accidents in Chinese coal mines in the first nine months of this year. It said that figure was down 13% from the same period last year, due largely to a nationwide safety crackdown.

However, Sun said Wednesday’s disaster highlighted “many problems” in enforcing safety standards.

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