China rescues 19 from flooded mine: state media

Rescue workers on Tuesday saved 19 miners from a flooded Chinese mine where they had been trapped for a week, state media said, in a rare success for an industry in which thousands die each year.

The state CCTV television network 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.

The state Xinhua news agency said three people remained trapped in the mine in northeastern China 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 in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang 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.

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 say the actual death toll is likely much higher.

Large-scale rescue successes are relatively rare and when 115 workers were pulled alive from a flooded state-run mine in April 2010, the rescue received widespread media coverage and was even turned into a film.

Thirty-eight people died when the huge, state-run Wangjialing coal mine flooded as it was being built in Shanxi province in an accident blamed on lax safety standards.

Workers had been been pumping water out of the Heilongjiang mine for days 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.

AFP

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