05/22/2006, 00.00
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Inundated mine: 57 miners trapped, managers arrested

Police have apprehended nine managers of the Xinjing Coal Mine, accused of covering up the scale of the accident and derailing the investigation. "This is the worst mine disaster this year".

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Chinese police have arrested nine mine managers in Shanxi accused of covering up the extent of an accident that took place underground over the weekend. The number of miners trapped in the Xinjing Coal Mine, Zuoyun County, is now held to be at least 57 and not 44 as originally thought by rescuers.

Xinhua quoted Yizhong, head of the national safety agency, as saying when he reached the scene: "This is the worst mine disaster this year. The mine owner has escaped so now it is difficult to determine how many people have been trapped. All the same, as long as there is hope, we must do all we can to save the miners." The figure of 57 was calculated following discussion with relatives who rushed to the mine entrance as soon as they heard the news.

The mine tunnels were flooded over the weekend for reasons as yet unclear. Soon after the flooding, mine managers claimed five people were working inside at the time: this is why they have also been charged with derailing the investigations.

Right now, a rescue team of around 200 people is on site, excavating in a bid to reach the miners.

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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See also
Hope fading fast for miners trapped in Shanxi
Shanxi: Government officials suspended after mine disaster
Heilongjiang, 104 die in mine explosion. Police arrest relatives of victims
50 killed in yet another mine blast
Owners hide bodies and run after mine explosion


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