Heilongjiang mine death toll climbs to 166

Another five miners are killed in an illegal mine in Hebei

Qitaihe (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The number of victims of a blast in Dongfeng mine in Qitaihe in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang continues to rise. Today rescue teams discovered another two corpses among the debris, which brings the death toll to 166. Meanwhile the search goes on for five miners described as "missing" by the government.

The authorities have withdrawn the mine's coal extraction permits; it is owned by the giant state-owned Longmei Group, which until the accident had been upheld as a model of occupational safety and productivity.

The blast in Qitaihe is one of the worst mining accidents in the last 20 years and certainly the most serious since new national guidelines on coal mine safety were issued by Beijing in September.

Another blast – made public only today – killed five miners in Hebei on Wednesday. The men were at work in the illegal Xipo mine in Zhangjiakou (160km north-west of Beijing). The mine had an annual output of 60,000 tons of coal but it was not in line with work safety standards.