52 coal miners rescued following explosion that left eight dead


THERE WAS some rare positive news after the latest disaster to strike the Chinese coal mining industry – the world’s deadliest – as rescuers pulled all 52 survivors to safety by Saturday morning, 40 hours after a massive cave-in destroyed a mineshaft in Henan province in central China.

Eight were killed in the explosion in the Qianqiu mine in Yima city, in western Henan.

State TV station CCTV ran pictures of rescue workers bringing the workers out of the mine shaft and giving them oxygen.

Rescuers were only able to connect the stranded workers underground at 6am on Saturday, when the search team reached 550 metres into the shaft. The 52 survivors and four dead victims were successfully brought to the surface after rescuers managed to unblock the shaft half an hour later.

“I was very nervous at first. But our captain told us to stay cool, and we kept encouraging each other down there,” one miner, Pei Sanguo (37), told local media.

There was some confusion about how many were rescued and how many had been underground at the time of the explosion, after the mine’s operator, the state-owned Yima Coal Mine Group, said there had been 75 miners in the shaft at the time of the explosion, and only 14 managed to escape to the surface immediately. The company chairman Wu Yulu later said that there had been an error in counting the number of those who escaped.

China’s coal mining industry’s safety record has improved since the government began to crack down on small illegal mines. Last year there were 2,433 fatalities, compared to nearly 7,000 in 2002.

The accident was caused following an explosion in a tunnel after a minor earthquake. Most of the trapped miners were able to survive because there was enough space and ventilation, the rescue crew said later.