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Gas burst in SW China's unlicensed coal mine kills 20 (2)

(Xinhua)

08:52, November 11, 2011

Local work safety officials said the private mine, with an annual output capacity of 90,000 tonnes, was operating without a license when the accident occurred. The mine's license was revoked a year ago.

A preliminary investigation showed that the gas leak occurred at one platform inside the shaft but gas later spread to another platform, trapping a total of 43 miners in the two areas at about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

Tired-looking, dust-covered firemen coming out from the shaft told Xinhua that they descended into the pit only to find 20 bodies.

Rescuers said they took life detectors and toxic air monitors with them to find survivors.

Luo Lin, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, ordered local authorities to do anything possible to save the trapped miners.

Experts define the phenomena which caused this incident as an "outburst," defined as a violent, simultaneous ejaculation of coal, rock and gases. Here, an outburst occurred when pockets of highly stressed gas broke out of the rock body under pressure. The sudden burst, common when rock or seams of coal are fractured, can quickly fill the shaft, destroy equipment and lead to explosions, explained Zhu Yong, a senior engineer with Yunan provincial work safety watchdog.

The Qujing government said earlier in a statement that a "gas explosion", instead of gas leak, was suspected of ripping through the mine and trapping the miners.

Zhu said outbursts differ from explosions, which are usually caused by the ignition of methane and other gases that accumulate in the shaft. The risk of an outburst grows with the depth of the mining.

Officials said there are different sets of operational rules for normal mines and gas-heavy mines. Better ventilation and gas-level monitors should be installed once mines are labeled gas-heavy.

The authorities are still probing the cause of the accident at Sizhuang.

The accident was the second deadly disaster to hit China's dangerous mining sector in a week. Last Thursday, a rock collapse occurred in a coal mine in central Henan province, triggered by a 2.9-magnitude earthquake. Eight miners were killed but 53 others, including 45 who had been trapped underground for 40 hours, were saved in a miracle rescue.

Rescuers working at Sizhuang said they hoped the miracle could be repeated.

China relies heavily on coal to power its massive economy. Lured by huge energy demands, mine bosses have often been found forcing workers to labor in conditions defying safety rules ordered by the government.

Gas explosions, floods and fires have been frequent occurrences in China's coal mines, killing hundreds, if not thousands each year. Official data shows that more than 2,600 people died in mining accidents in 2009, despite a steady decline in mining deaths over the past few years amid strengthened safety measures and the closure of many illegal mines.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao once ordered mine managers to spend some time in the shafts along with their workers in order to raise their awareness of work safety.

【1】 【2】


 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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