Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - An underground explosion has killed at least 26 people in a coal mine in Henan province in central China. Another 20 miners were rescued after the collapse following the explosion in the Juyuan coal mine, Mianchi County, according to reports from the official Xinhua news agency. But rescue teams are still trying to determine the exact number of people who were working in the tunnels at the time of the accident. This is because operations were "chaotic" according to an official, while the manager in charge of the mine apparently fled after the explosion. The main source of these statements is Guoqi Li, an engineer for the Industrial Group Yi Ma, who was overseeing handover operations.
The police investigations have led to the suspicion that the manager of the mine, Suo Yonggang, may have hidden four bodies in the well, said Li. The mine was closed for improvements, while the MaYi Group was about to take over the management. Engineers should have eliminated unspecified 'safety hazards' before mining resumed but it seems that management had ordered the miners back to work anyway.
Rescuers had to suck a considerable amount of toxic gases from passages the before they could descend into the mine, which has an annual production capacity of 150 thousand tons. Chinese coal mines have very low safety standards, last year the death toll reached 2631 people. But this is an official figure, there are those who believe that in reality the number is much higher.