37 miners confirmed dead in Sichuan colliery blast

CHINA - Thirty-seven miners have been confirmed dead and ten others were still trapped after Wednesday's gas explosion in a coal mine in the southwestern province of Sichuan, rescuers said on Friday.

Search for missing miners continues

Rescue work continued on Thursday evening in the gas-filled pit where 21 miners were still trapped after Wednesday's gas explosion in a Sichuan province coal mine.

Twenty-six people have been confirmed dead after an explosion hit the Xiaojiawan Coal Mine in the city of Panzhihua around 5 pm on Wednesday, the rescue headquarters said on Thursday.

Temperatures soared and carbon monoxide was dense in the zone where the 21 miners were trapped. Only some mask-wearing rescuers have been able to enter, authorities said.

A total of 154 miners were working when the blast occurred in the mine, which is in Shixi district of Panzhihua, Li Xiaojun, a Sichuan government publicity official, said on Thursday.

Two hours after the accident, 104 miners were lifted out of the coal mine safely, but three of them died on the way to the hospital.

As of 6 am on Thursday, six more miners were rescued, and 16 more bodies were found, local work safety authorities said in a news conference on Thursday.

On Thursday evening, seven more miners were confirmed dead, raising the death toll to 26, Xinhua News Agency reported.

A work team led by Yang Dongliang, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, reached the coal mine at 7 am to oversee the rescue work.

As of noon on Thursday, the rescue headquarters of the blast had sent 12 teams of 139 rescuers who searched the pit for the trapped miners. They had made 21 attempts to find the trapped men and searched 70 per cent of the coal mine's tunnels, according to a statement from the local publicity department.

On Thursday, the rescue headquarters decided to send 145 more rescuers to the scene of the accident.

"The temperature in the pit is very high and the air is not very good. The rescuers need respirators to stay longer," said Tang Zhong, a rescuer from Yanbian county of Sichuan.

Because some tunnels collapsed, rescuers cannot reach three operation sites in the pit, Tang said.

According to Fu Jianhua, director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, the tunnel where the miners were trapped had a high level of carbon monoxide and the roof was collapsing, which made the rescue work very difficult.

The rescue headquarters asked the rescuers to enter the unreached tunnels and make efforts to find the trapped miners.

After the blast, seven medical institutions in the city sent medical personnel to the site to aid the rescue work.

Four hospitals in Panzhihua received 51 injured people, 47 of whom suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. Seven of them were in critical condition and 10 people were seriously injured, the Panzhihua publicity department said.

A team was set up to investigate the cause of the accident. The rescue headquarters has asked the local government to comfort family members of the miners, and the compensation process has started.

The Xiaojiawan Coal Mine, owned by Zhengjin Industry and Trade, is an integrated coal mine with an annual output of 90,000 metric tons. It started its trial run in March 2011, and gained a safety license in December, according to the State Administration of Work Safety.

The Sichuan government will examine potential safety hazards in all the mines within the province. Projects or companies with serious safety hazards will be halted and reorganised immediately, local authorities said.

According to data released by the administration, 41 accidents triggered by gas have happened in China's coal mines until July this year, causing 149 deaths. Compared with the same period last year, 36 fewer accidents happened and 142 fewer miners were killed.

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