Hundreds dead in Chinese mine blast

Chinese workers waiting at the scene after the coal-mining accident in
Fuxin city that killed at least 203 people.
Photograph: Reuters/Xinhua

A gas explosion at a Chinese coal mine has killed at least 203 people, the country's worst reported mining disaster for decades.

The explosion yesterday at the Sunjiawan mine in the northeastern Liaoning province also injured 22 others and trapped 13 people underground.

President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders issued orders for local officials "to spare no effort to rescue those stranded in the mine," the official Xinhua news agency reported

Rescuers have faced roads made wet by an overnight snowfall and below freezing temperatures.

A government team headed by a member of China's cabinet arrived at the Sunjiawan mine today to help find the missing, treat the injured and prepare compensation for the victims' families.

China has suffered a string of deadly mining disasters in recent months despite a nationwide safety campaign.

Its mines are by far the world's most dangerous, with more than 6,000 deaths last year in floods, explosions and fires.

The government said the toll was 8% below the number killed the previous year, but its fatality rate per ton of coal mined is still 100 times that of the US.

China says it accounted for 80% of all coal mining deaths worldwide last year.

A blast in the northern province of Shaanxi in November killed 166 miners. Another in October killed 148.

Yesterday's disaster was the worst reported by the Chinese government since the 1949 communist revolution. But until the late 1990s, when the government began regularly announcing statistics on mining deaths, many industrial accidents were never disclosed.

In 1942, China's north-east was the site of the world's deadliest coal mining disaster when an accident killed 1,549 miners in Japanese-occupied Manchuria during the second world war.

Mine owners and local officials are frequently blamed for putting profits ahead of safety, especially as the nation's soaring energy needs increase demand for coal.

Underground explosions often are blamed on a lack of ventilation equipment to remove gas that seeps from the coal bed.

Associated Press Tuesday February 15, 2005 Guardian Unlimited ©


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