105 confirmed dead in N China coal mine gas blast
GOV.cn Sunday, December 9, 2007

A State Council investigation team confirmed on Sunday that 105 people died in the coal mine gas blast in Hongtong County of north China's Shanxi Province, after the rescue work was concluded.

Headed by Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, the investigation team was formed at 9 a.m. Sunday.

The gas explosion occurred at 11:15 p.m. Wednesday at Xinyao Coal Mine, a village-run coal firm in Hongtong County, Linfen City, while 128 miners were working in the shaft, far more than the maximum of 60 miners for one shift as approved by Shanxi coal mine authorities.

According to Li, the colliery managers delayed reporting the accident to local authorities while sending another 37 workers down to the shaft for rescue operations. In this way, the mine let slip the first opportunity for rescue efforts.

In addition, the mine owner and other chief executives escaped after the accident, causing great difficulties for rescue operation.

Of the 60 rescued miners, 18 were injured, including four in serious condition, Li said.

Li also slashed local work safety and coal mine authorities for inadequate supervision and management. Three local work teams inspected the mine last month, but none of them had discovered hidden dangers that caused the fatal accident.

Xinyao, owned by Ruizhiyuan Mining Co., held full, valid licenses at the time of the accident that allowed it to produce 210,000 tons of coal annually.

Police have so far detained 35 people, instead of previously reported 33 people, who are alleged to be relevant to or responsible for the fatal gas explosion.

Among those detained were the mine's manager Gao Jianmin, Wang Hongliang, the mine's legal representative. The mine's license has been sealed and its bank accounts frozen.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Security has issued a class-Barrest warrant for the owner of the mine.

Meng Xuenong, acting governor of Shanxi Province, said on Sunday Shanxi should draw lessons from the accident and improve work safety, especially in coal mines.

Li Tiantai, mayor of Linfen, has apologized to the families of victims on behalf of the municipal government.

The accident is believed to be the nation's second deadliest mining disaster so far this year. In August, 181 miners died when heavy rains flooded two mines in eastern Shandong Province.

Editor: Du Guodong
Source: Xinhua