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Hope fades for 153 trapped Chinese miners
BEIJING, Mar 31 (Agencies)
Published on 1 Apr. 2010 12:43 AM IST
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Despite the efforts of 1,000 rescuers, hope appeared to be fading Wednesday for 153 miners trapped in a coal shaft in northern China that was flooded on Sunday.
As workers tried to drain the millions of gallons of water that gushed in from an adjacent shaft, a government safety body accused the mine’s construction managers of ignoring warning signs in their rush to start production. The managers of the Wangjialing mine in Shanxi Province, according to China Daily, have been since gone missing.
In a statement posted on its Web site, the State Administration of Work Safety said that mine officials had overlooked danger signs, including persistent water leaks, and then ordered more workers into the tunnels than was allowed.
“They did not follow the safety instructions or guidelines when leaks were reported and did not take the actions necessary to evacuate people,” the agency said. “This incident once again exposes lapses in responsibility and management of safety and failure to take safety checks and measures seriously.” Most of the miners, migrants from across the country lured by relatively generous wages, received no training, the state media reported.
In recent days, surviving miners and relatives of those trapped, many brimming with anger, have been kept away from the staging area by a cordon of police.
As of Tuesday night, the work of five pumps had reduced the water level in the mine by only a few inches. A steady rain did not make the work any easier and sent more water soaking into the group. According to Xinhua, the official news agency, the men were said to be trapped in nine different tunnels. More than 100 others escaped as the shafts filled with water on Sunday.
If rescue efforts fail, the accident would be the deadliest since 2007, when 172 miners were killed in a mine flood in eastern Shandong Province.
Chinese coal mines have long been perilous places to work. Last year, more than 2,600 people died in accidents, many of them in Shanxi Province, the heart of China’s coal industry.
However grim, that figure is less than half what it was in 2005, a testament to safety improvements and the closure of illegal or poorly run mining operations. Since last year, the Shanxi provincial government has been leading an effort to consolidate smaller, privately owned mines with larger, state-owned enterprises.
Critics, however, say the nationalization drive fails to adequately address safety lapses by even large companies, who are under intense pressure to produce coal for an energy-starved nation.

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