A frantic rescue operation to reach
153 miners trapped deep underground in a flooded coal mine shaft has entered
its second day in northern China.
President Hu Jintao has ordered
mining authorities to do everything they can to bring the workers out alive, in
what could become the country’s worst ever mining disaster.
There were 261 miners working at
the new Xiangning mine, when they broke into an adjoining shaft, which was
filled with water.
A torrent large enough to fill 52
Olympic sized swimming pools rushed through the tunnel, trapping the men.
The huge mine covers an area of 180
square kilometres in Xiangning County.
Officials are hopeful they can
rescue the 153 people trapped underground before the water is completely pumped
out, as it could take up to three days to drain the shaft completely.
“Most of the trapped miners
are migrant workers from Shanxi, Hebei, Hunan and Guizhou provinces,” a
rescuer was quoted as saying on the state broadcast media.
China’s vice-president visited the
scene of the rescue effort overnight, and a full investigation has been
launched into the incident.
The mine was due to produce six
million tonnes of coal a year, but problems had delayed its construction.
Coal accounts for more than 70 per
cent of China’s huge energy needs and
safety standards have been ignored in the efforts to meet soaring demand.
As a result, more than 2,000
workers were killed in Chinese mines last year, making them the most dangerous
in the world.