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Rescue operation continues in NE China coal pit with fatal fire
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16:33, September 22, 2008

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Rescuers failed to find the bodies of 12 miners missing after a fire in a coal mine in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province on Saturday.

A fire broke out at about 3:30 a.m. on Saturday at Fuhua Coal Mine in Hegang, a city in eastern Heilongjiang Province, while 43 miners were underground. Twelve managed to escape, but 31 were trapped.

Rescuers had found the bodies of 19 of the miners as of 10 a.m. on Monday. Five of the corpses were brought to the surface late on Saturday, according to the rescue headquarters.

Experts at the site said the 12 trapped miners had little chance of survival as they had been trapped for more than 30 hours, despite continuous work to control the fire, including injecting liquefied carbon dioxide into the mine.

Rescuers had been forced back by the fire and the increasing toxic gas, including carbon monoxide.

The mine's owner, manager, a vice manager in charge of production and another in charge of ventilation, and an engineer were in police custody. Their bank accounts had been frozen, Wang Rui, vice mayor of Hegang, said.

The licensed mine, in Xingshan District of Hegang, belongs to Fuhua Mining Co., Ltd., and has an annual production capacity of 60,000 tons.

The city has ordered all its coal mines to suspend operation pending inspections. Mine safety authorities are investigating the cause of the blaze.

Source: Xinhua

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