China in bid to rescue 17 miners trapped after deadly blast

Chinese rescue workers battled Friday to free 17 miners trapped for more than 48 hours in a northeast colliery following a gas blast that left five dead, a local government official said.

The explosion on Thursday, in a coal mine in Liaoning province, killed five workers and injured a sixth, the official, surnamed Liang, told AFP.

"Family members of the victims are on their way to the mine, but the name list of victims can't be disclosed for now," he said.

The official Xinhua news agency reported Friday that rescue workers had managed to locate the 17 workers, who are believed to have gathered at a work platform underground.

China's mines are known for being among the deadliest in the world due to lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency, and accidents are common as safety is often neglected by bosses seeking a quick profit.

Last week, 13 people died after a capsule plunged into a pit at an iron ore mine in eastern China after a steel rope holding it broke.

And in February, 15 miners were killed and another three injured when a tramcar derailed in a coal mine in central China.

Latest figures show that 2,433 people died in coal mining accidents in the country in 2010 -- a rate of more than six workers per day.

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

Liang said the owner of the colliery in Liaoning had run away -- a common move by mine bosses who often panic after accidents.

According to the Xinhua report, local safety authorities said the mine's operations were supposed to have been suspended pending a safety check, but the owner had re-opened the colliery illegally.

China's rapid economic growth has caused demand for energy, including coal, to surge.

The world's second-biggest economy is the top global consumer of coal, relying on the fossil fuel for 70 percent of its growing energy needs, and during the winter months mines operate at full capacity.

Source: AFP

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