Hope fading fast for miners trapped in Shanxi

Five days after flooding blocked 57 miners underground in Zuoyon County, none of the rescuers are talking about survivors. Draining pumps were activated only yesterday, due to "technical problems".


Zuoyun (AsiaNews/SCMP) – The likelihood of survival of at least 57 miners trapped underground in a Shanxi mine appears more remote than ever. The miners were caught underground five days ago by massive flooding caused by a blast. Rescue teams searching the Xinjing Coal Mine in Zuoyun County, began pumping water from the mine yesterday, 23 May. But there was no word on whether any of the miners were believed to be alive.

The pumping of water started after a long delay that state media said was caused "by technical problems" and a "lack of power to run the giant pumps". The pumps were capable of moving 1,200 cubic metres of water per hour, but, according to Xinhua, the mine was flooded by up to 200,000 cubic metres, so draining it "could take days".

Bai Yulong, a government official in charge of information for Datong city which administers the area, said only four of the nine pumps installed were being used. In any case, he too refused to comment about the possibility of finding survivors or about reports that there could be more than 100 trapped miners.

The representative would only confirm the arrest of eight mine managers and the flight of the owner. The managers were apprehended by police because – just after the flooding – they claimed there were "only five people" in the mine. One of the charges they now face is of derailing the investigation.

Mines are presenting an ever more urgent problem for Chinese leaders. According to official sources, in the course of a national campaign for occupational safety launched by Beijing, provincial governments have shut down 4,876 mines of illegal extraction and identified 952 members of the government

who – against Communist Party regulations – had invested in mining shares worth a total of 156 million yuan (more than 15 million euros).

In 2005, accidents across the country actually increased (+8.5% in the first nine months of the year compared to 2004, according to official figures) including the worst incidents to occur in the past 50 years.

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