Death toll from blast in China up to 37

10 miners remain trapped from gas-blasted coal mine

BEIJING | August 31, 2012

Rescuers in China recovered more bodies from a gas-blasted coal mine, bringing the number of miners confirmed dead to 37, while another 10 remained trapped.

More than 300 rescuers pressed on to save the trapped miners, but their efforts were being hampered by narrow underground spaces, caved-in debris, extremely high temperatures and poisonous carbon monoxide in the gas-filled pit, Xinhua news agency said.

The blast occurred Wednesday evening at the Xiaojiawan Coal Mine in Panzhihua city in southwest Sichuan province.

Since the blast local authorities have revised the number of workers who were in the pit at the time of the blast.

Latest figures showed 154 miners were working underground when the blast occurred, Xinhua reported. It said 107 of them either managed to escape on their own or were pulled out of the shaft after the incident.

The latest toll of 37 dead included three rescued miners who later died while being taken to hospital, thus leaving the remaining 10 miners yet to be accounted for.

Of those injured, Xinhua quoted Health Department sources as saying at least 10 suffered serious burn-related injuries and seven more remained in critical condition. Others were reported in stable condition.

One rescuer said he had entered the pit three times Thursday and managed to pull out two miners alive.

"The shaft of the mine has been severely destroyed, making our rescue work very hard," the rescuer said.

"The temperature in the pit is very high and the air is not very good. The rescuers need respirators to stay longer," another rescuer said, China Daily reported.

A 34-year-old miner who survived later told Xinhua at his hospital he heard a crackling sound of an explosion but didn't feel any shockwave.

"What came out of the air compressor was not fresh air but ash, and soon my workmates and I got headache," he said. He said before he scrambled out, he managed to get the pipe off the compressor to let in fresh air.

The Xiaojiawan Coal Mine with an annual output of about 100,000 tons began operation in March of last year and was given a safety license in December, China Daily reported, quoting state work safety administration officials.

Three owners of the mine had been arrested on unknown charges while the investigation into the incident continued.

Coal mine accidents in China take a heavy toll every year despite stringent safety regulations. Safety experts in the past have conceded many mines operate illegally in the country.

Official figures show there were 41 coal mine accidents triggered by gas until July this year, resulting in the deaths of 149 miners. The numbers are smaller than for the same period of last year, China Daily said.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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