The death toll in a gas explosion in a Chinese coal mine rose to 64 today with 84 still missing as another 41 miners were reported killed or missing in two other accidents.
The explosion on Wednesday in the central province of Henan was the deadliest this year in China’s accident-plagued mines.
President Hu Jintao ordered “every possible means” to be used to find the missing men but a local official said: “The survival chance for the missing is quite slim.”
Elsewhere, rescuers were searching for 29 miners who were missing after a shaft flooded in the northern city of Wu’an.
Another 12 miners were killed in a mine explosion in the south-western region of Chongqing.
The blast in Henan 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 that any survivors had been found by the 1,000-member rescue force.
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, state media reported.
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 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 Huashan, deputy administrator of the State Administration of Work Safety, said the disaster in Henan highlighted “many problems” in enforcing safety standards.