THE DEATH TOLL from a gas explosion in a coal mine in Central China has risen to 31, after rescue workers at the scene discovered five more dead bodies.
State news agency Xinhua reports that there are six survivors still trapped underground in the mine, outside of Yuzhou City in the central province of Henna, but rescuers believe the chances of being able to rescue them are slim – fearing that the remaining six missing miners may be buried under 2,500 tonnes of coal dust.
The accident took place on Saturday in a pit owned by the Pingyu Coal and Electric Company, where an initial investigation showed that 173,500 cubic meters of gas had leaked out in the accident.
A total of 276 workers were on duty at the mine when the explosion occurred; the other 239 members of staff are understood to have escaped.
“At around 6 am I felt there was something wrong with the airflow in the shaft, and one of the team captains told me he also felt it and had already reported the problem,” said Liu Wenbin, a deputy chief engineer of the Pingyu company who was in the mine at the time of the explosion.
The incident has failed to capture the imaginations of onlookers worldwide in the same manner as the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners last week, largely because such accidents are commonplace in China: last year alone, more than 2,600 people died due to various mining accidents.
Indeed, an explosion at the same mine on August 1, 2008 killed 23 people.