41 workers dead after Sichuan mine blast

Updated: 2012-09-01 03:30

By HUANG ZHILING in Panzhihua, Sichuan (China Daily)

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41 workers dead after Sichuan mine blast

Li Meifa, 38, receives medical treatment at a hospital in Panzhihua, Sichuan province, on Friday. Li was rescued after an accident in the city's Xiaojiawan Coal Mine killed 41 workers. Five workers were still trapped underground. Huang Zhiling / China Daily

Province to close small mines with annual output below 60,000 tons

Zhao Cheng was watching a CCTV entertainment show on Friday afternoon at the Panmei General Hospital of Sichuan Coal Group in Panzhihua, Sichuan province in Southwest China.

Zhao, a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning after Wednesday’s gas explosion at the Xiaojiawan Coal Mine in Panzhihua, was recovering and started eating on Thursday.

After the explosion, Zhao, who had just gotten off work, entered the pit with dozens of fellow miners in rescue operations.

"We saved five brothers. But I breathed too much carbon monoxide and became weak, I had to be taken out of the pit," said the 24-year-old from a suburb of Chongqing municipality. He has worked in coal mines for three years.

Not every fellow miner was as lucky as Zhao.

Forty-one miners were confirmed dead and five were still trapped in the pit after the explosion, which happened at about 5 pm on Wednesday, said Huang Jinsheng, deputy chief of the Sichuan Provincial Work Safety Bureau on Friday.

"The search for the five miners is ongoing despite their slim chances of survival," said Zhang Zhenjian, a rescuer from the Panzhihua Branch of Sichuan Coal Group.

Temperatures reached 80 to 90 C, and carbon monoxide was dense in the zone where the five miners were trapped.

"Workers are using blowers to improve air quality and lower the temperature," Zhang said.

Two tents were put up near the entrance of the pit so that relatives of the dead and of the trapped miners could register.

On Friday afternoon, Guo Lian and Guo He, two brothers in their 40s from Nanchong, Sichuan, went to one of the tents looking for their missing elder brother, Guo Qi.

Receptionists at the tent led them to a hotel in the city where relatives of the victims and stranded miners are staying.

On Friday afternoon, dead bodies were taken to the local funeral parlor so that relatives could identify their loved ones, witnesses said.

According to Mu Fei, an information official at the Panzhihua city government, each miner had an insurance policy. The family of each miner who was killed in the accident will get 600,000 yuan ($95,200) compensation.

A total of 154 miners were on the site when the blast occurred at the mine, which has an annual output of about 90,000 tons.

The conditions of the 54 wounded miners staying at four hospitals in the city are generally improving, said Shen Ji, director of the Sichuan Provincial Department of Health.

Four of the seven critically ill miners regained consciousness. And many of the 37 miners suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning could already eat, he said.

Huang attributed the cause of the explosion to an arbitrary change of the site of operations.

"The company allowed miners to drill at a site not permitted by the government. According to regulations, the pit could hold only 75 people. But 154 miners were at the site when the explosion took place," he said.

In an emergency meeting held on Friday evening, Liu Jie, vice-governor of Sichuan, said the province has decided to close coal mines with an annual output below 60,000 tons.