04/25/2005, 00.00
CHINA
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At least eight dead and 30 trapped in two Chinese mines

Jiaohe (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Tengda cold mine in Jiaohe, Jilin province (north-eastern China), was flooded yesterday, April 24, trapping some 69 miners underground.

Rescue work went on all night and by morning some 39 miners were brought to the surface. No communication has however been established with the remaining 30 still trapped in the mine.

Neither the industrial safety nor public security departments in the city made any comment.

In Yuzhou city, Henan province, a fire that had started in the Fushun coal mine several hours before the Tengda accident killed at least eight workers, but the death toll might still rise since four people are missing.

Both accidents are being investigated by central authorities.

Coal mine disasters happen frequently across the mainland, where demand for energy has escalated to fuel its booming economy.

The demand has caused coal prices to skyrocket and most mine owners ignore workers' safety in the pursuit of profits.

In the Yuzhou case, workers were sent into the pit despite orders from the local government to stop operations and upgrade the mine.

The mine owners are now in police custody.

Official figures indicate more than 6,000 miners died in accidents last year but independent estimates put the number as high as 20,000.

In the first quarter of 2005, the official death toll jumped 20 per cent over the same period last year to 1,113.

By law, every accident with more than ten people involved must be reported to central and provincial authorities and the mine shut down, but many owners and corrupt local officials choose not to report them or to underestimate the number of victims to avoid being shut down

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