NE China coal mine death toll expected to reach 151

QITAIHE, Heilongjiang Province: The final death toll in Sunday's coal mine explosion in this Northeast China city is likely to reach 151 as lax management was blamed.

By press time, the rescue headquarters of the Dongfeng Coal Mine announced that 146 bodies had been found underground and three miners were still missing. Two women workers working in an above-ground generator room were also killed in the blast.

"It is very unlikely that the three missing are still alive as we have checked almost every corner underground," said Song Kaicheng, a chief engineer with Heilongjiang Longmei Mining (Group) Co Ltd, which owns the mine.

A preliminary investigation found that the accident was caused by lax management policies regarding coal dust, which is more prone to ignite at a certain density.

Yesterday morning, Jia Jiguo, head of Longmei Mining, admitted that before the blast "there were signs showing high dust density." Experts said the best course of action then would have been to stop production. But production in the mine continued even after a meeting on November 22 to deal with the situation.

In addition, the number of miners working underground when the blast occurred was still confusing.

The number of miners' lamps issued for the shift suggested that 221 had gone into the pit, compared with the official attendance roll of 254.

Rescue headquarters refused to comment on the disparity, saying they believed that 221 was the correct figure.

The headquarters also said out of the 72 survivors, 47 were injured and being treated in the hospital.

But Jin Zhenlin, president of the Qitaihe Coal Bureau Hospital, confirmed with China Daily that 50 injured miners are accepting treatment at his hospital.

Li Yizhong, minister of the State Administration of Work Safety, pledged to spare no effort to punish those responsible for the accident.

Heilongjiang Governor Zhang Zuoji has ordered a campaign to check for any hidden danger at the worksite.

Source: China Daily

People's Daily Online ---