An explosion in a Chinese coal mine has trapped 17 miners below the earth, where falling coal and high gas levels hinder rescue efforts, according to the Associated Press.
The condition of the missing miners is unknown at this time.
Gas levels are forty times higher than normal in the mine, a factor which might have led to the explosion and which makes rescue attempts more difficult. The danger of coal, loosened by the blast, falling on rescuers is also impeding rescue efforts.
276 miners were working in the shaft when the explosion ignited, according to Chinese work safety officials.
The blast occurred at the state-owned Pingyu Coal and Electric Co. Ltd. mines, some 430 miles south of Beijing, AP reports, when miners attempted to drill a relief shaft to release a pocket of explosive gas.
China’s mining industry is the world’s most dangerous, with 2600 deaths last year, AP reports. At least 515 have died in Chinese mines so far this year, despite proposed improved safety measures.
A mining accident in Shanxi, China in March of this year, in which 221 miners were rescued out of 260 which were reported trapped, caused outrage as mine officials waited six days before sending in rescue teams. Apparently all the mine’s officials fled the scene after the accident,
One miner, Ma Wen said that had officials paid attention to warning signs on the morning of March 28 when signs of danger first appeared, that accident could have been avoided.
Another explosion, in Pingdingshan, Henan province, in June killed 46 miners.
No more is currently known about the causes of this latest disaster.