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China rescues 19 from flooded mine

Rescue workers on Tuesday pulled 19 miners out of a flooded mine in northeastern China where they had been trapped for a week, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

State television showed the men being carried out on stretchers from the flooded mine swaddled in blankets, their eyes bandaged as they emerged into the daylight, several shouting their thanks to the rescuers.

Xinhua said three people remained trapped in the mine, in the northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang, after it flooded on August 23 when workers mistakenly drilled into a neighbouring mine that had been filled with water.

Of the 45 miners who were in the pit when it flooded, 19 escaped, four were rescued on Saturday — one of whom later died — and another 19 were pulled out early Tuesday morning.

China’s coal mines — which have a dismal safety record — have been hit by a series of accidents in recent years as demand for energy has spiked. In July, a coal mine flood in southwest Guizhou province killed 23 workers.

Last year, 2,433 people died in coal mine accidents in China, according to official statistics — a rate of more than six workers per day.

Labour rights groups, however, say the actual death toll is likely much higher, partly due to under-reporting of accidents as mine bosses seek to limit their economic losses and avoid punishment.

Rescuers have been pumping water out of the Heilongjiang mine and by Saturday afternoon had drained 56,150 cubic metres (about 2 million cubic feet), Xinhua said, citing rescuers.

On August 24, the government in Boli county — where the mine is located — said it had sacked two top officials for their roles leading up to the disaster, including the county head.

Provincial authorities had ordered work at the mine owned by the Hengtai Coal Mining Co. to halt in 2007, but on August 16 the owner illegally restarted production, Xinhua said.

Filed in: World News

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