Thu, Dec 16, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Beijing calls 5,286 mine deaths an `improvement'

AP , BEIJING

A woman cries as she holds on to her son while waiting for news of her husband trapped in a coal mine in Xiangtan County in China's central Hunan Province on Tuesday. A fire broke out in the mine on Monday at a depth of about 500m and 21 workers were trapped.

PHOTO: AFP

Fires, floods and other disasters killed 5,286 Chinese miners in the first 11 months of this year, but safety in the industry is improving, the government said.

The figures were announced as the death toll in the latest disaster, a coal mine fire in central China, rose to 18.

The industry's death toll so far this year is 8 percent below the figure for the same period last year, due to a nationwide campaign, the State Administration for Work Safe-ty said on Tuesday.

But it said the fatality rate per tonne of coal mined is still 100 times that of the US. China says it accounted for 80 percent of all coal mining deaths worldwide last year.

Most of China's miners work in coal mines, but fatalities were also reported this year in gold, tin and other mines.

In the latest deaths, the bodies of 13 miners in the Xinli Coal Mine in Hunan province were found on Tuesday some 500m below the surface, Xinhua News Agency said. It said five were found earlier.

The agency quoted a survivor as saying the fire that broke out on Monday in the mine was caused by a faulty air compressor.

Accidents are often blamed on lack of ventilation and fire-control equipment, poor maintenance or indifference to safety rules.

The Chinese government says it has budgeted some 4 billion yuan (US$500 million) since 2000 to improve ventilation in mines and reduce other safety hazards.

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