Death Toll in China Mine Blast Rises to 28

By Reuters
May 7, 2007 Updated: May 7, 2007

BEIJING—Rescuers recovered another five bodies trapped by a coal mine blast in northern China, bringing the death toll in the disaster to 28, state media reported on Monday.

A further two miners were still missing after the explosion, which ripped through the Pudeng mine in Shanxi, China's largest coal-producing province, in the latest accident to hit the world's deadliest mining industry.

“Rescue work is quite difficult since the shaft is still filled with smoke,” Xinhua news agency quoted Zhao Tiechui, director of the State Administration for Coal Mine Safety Supervision, as saying.

The mine had been ordered to suspend production but work there had resumed illegally, Xinhua said.

The mine owner and several managers were under surveillance, and provincial officials have ordered an investigation into the explosion.

China has been struggling to clean up its mining industry, which last year killed more than 4,700 people, but owners continue to push production beyond safe limits to reap profits and meet the country's surging appetite for fuel.

One miner, digging coal about 500 metres (1,600 feet) from the site of the Pudeng blast, described being knocked off his feet by the force of the explosion.

“I was knocked over by a huge wave, but I knew I had to get up and go,” Xinhua quoted Li Junping as saying. “It was like I was drunk and I finally tumbled out of the mine.”

The Pudeng explosion was the second mine accident within a week in Shanxi, which produces about 600 million tonnes of coal a year. On Monday, a blast in an illegal mine in Yuxian county killed 14 people.

And in China's central province of Hunan, an explosion in an office building of the Zhalin coal mine, in Jiahe county, killed five people and injured three others, Xinhua reported.

That blast may have been caused by explosives stored in the building, the report cited a local work safety official as saying.