Nearly a week after an explosion at a coal mine in eastern China that killed at least three people, 24 miners are still trapped underground.
A total of 39 miners were working underground when the blast occurred at a depth of more than 500 metres early on the morning of 19 August at the Dongfang Coal Mine, near the city of Huainan in Anhui. So far, 12 miners, those working nearer the surface, have been rescued and three bodies have been recovered, according to Chinese media reports.
Several rescue teams have been deployed to the accident site but rescue work has been hampered by the extreme depth of mine and the collapse of part of the mine tunnel during the blast.
The cause of the explosion is still being investigated. However, the privately-run mine had reportedly twice flouted orders from the local government to suspend production because of the danger of flooding in the area.
Just five days before the Anhui explosion, a coal mine in the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang was flooded. There have been five confirmed deaths in that incident and 11 miners are still unaccounted for. Their chances of survival however are reportedly very slight.
Accident and death rates in China’s coal mines have fallen steadily since the mid-2000s. Last year, the State Administration for Work Safety reported a total of 589 accidents and 1,049 deaths, both figures down 24 percent compared with 2012. There were very few major accidents in the first half of this year, largely due to the slowdown in the demand for coal, but there have now been three serious incidents in the last two months, which could have killed up to 60 miners in total.