China coal mine gas blast kills at least 73, hospitalizes 113


Mon, Feb 23, 2009 - Page 1

A gas explosion ripped through a coal mine in northern China yesterday, killing at least 73 miners and trapping dozens in the still-burning shaft, an official said. It was the country’s deadliest coal mine accident in more than a year.

China’s mines are the world’s most dangerous, with more than 3,000 deaths a year in fires, floods and explosions.

The pre-dawn blast occurred while 436 workers were in the Tunlan Coal Mine in Gujiao near Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi Province, Xinhua news agency said.

At least 73 miners died, said a State Administration of Work Safety duty officer who would only give her surname, Zhang. She said the cause of the explosion was still being investigated.

Xinhua said 113 others were hospitalized, including 21 in critical condition. It did not say how many workers remained trapped in the shaft, but earlier reports said at least 65 were still underground.

The injured miners were suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, Xinhua reported, citing doctors at a nearby hospital. Exposure to carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas, can lead to death.

State television CCTV showed rescuers in orange suits and red helmets with headlamps entering an elevator to be lowered into the mine shaft, while others emerged from the mine carrying workers on stretchers toward waiting ambulances.

Nearly 100 rescuers were on site, but their work was hampered by flames still burning in the shaft, CCTV said.

The mine is owned by Shanxi Coking Coal Group, China’s largest producer of coking coal.

The Tunlan mine has some of the best facilities in the country and had not reported any major accidents in the past five years, Xinhua said. It produces 5 million tonnes of coking coal a year.

Xinhua quoted a rescued miner, Xue Huancheng, as saying while lying in a hospital bed that he remembered being ordered to flee when the explosion occurred.

“At that time, power supply underground was cut off and we had to walk,” he said, adding that he began to feel faint as he was about to reach the exit after walking for about 40 minutes.