Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The 141 miners trapped inside a north China mine following a gas explosion have no chance of survival and are presumed dead, a local communist party secretary said on Monday. "They have no chance of surviving at all, not even a one per cent chance," said Yan Mangxue, communist party secretary for Yaoyu village, where 14 of the trapped miners are from.
Some 141 miners were trapped underground last night after an explosion at the state-owned Chenjiashan coal mine in Shaanxi province that killed 25 workers. Despite the efforts of 2,000 rescue workers, gas inside the mine hampered the operation. The density of carbon monoxide was 0.5 per cent - five times the lethal level.
The gas blast struck the mine, about 40 km from Tongchuan city , at about 7.10am in a pit about 8km from the entrance to the shaft. It was the second serious blast at the mine in three years. A total of 293 miners were working underground at the time of the blast and 141 were still trapped last night, the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety said.
Forty-three people were taken to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning, with 11 listed in a critical condition. The other 84 miners escaped unharmed; they were working near the entrance in technical support positions.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, who is in Laos to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, expressed concern over the accident and fate of the trapped miners, ordering officials to do their best to rescue them.
Mr Wen said the accident showed the government needed to step up safety management of coal mines, despite investing 5.3 billion yuan in the area.
"The recent spate of incidents ... has caused a high degree of concern. Not only do we have to investigate the cause of it, we also need to trace responsibility as well as improve safety precautions," he said.
The central government ordered all coal mines in Shaanxi to immediately stop production to undergo safety checks.
The official denied speculation on internet chat rooms that the accident was the result of ignorance of safety checks. "Our bureau has always attached great importance to production safety. The bureau director had planned to inspect the Chenjiashan mine yesterday and it was so unfortunate the accident happened on the same day," the official said.
Online postings on Xinhua's website bemoaned the state of an industry in which 4,153 workers died in the first nine months of the year.
"Why do these accidents keep happening one after another? Why don't the relevant authorities do something about it
..are Chinese people's lives worth less than money?" asked one person in an anonymous posting.