Fri, May 26, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Officials suspended over mine disaster

PROBETwo officials formally responsible for the flooding catastrophe at the Xinjing mine in China’s Shanxi Province have been stood down pending an investigation, while rescuers gave up hope of finding anyone alive in the pit

AP , SHANGHAI

Two officials have been suspended from their jobs amid a probe into corruption surrounding a coal mine where 57 miners are feared to have drowned, a local government spokesman said yesterday.

The flood at the Xinjing mine in Shanxi province was the biggest disaster this year in China’s chaotically managed and notoriously unsafe mines, where accidents kill an average of 16 people a day.

Zhangjiachang village Mayor Liu Yongxin and Communist Party Secretary Chang Rui have been placed on administrative leave, said a government spokesman in the surrounding municipality of Datong.

The spokesman, who refused to give his name, said he did not know if any specific accusations had been brought against the two officials.

All mines that are operating in the area have been ordered to stop production indefinitely, the spokesman said.

Rescuers have been attempting to pump water from the shaft, but have little hope of finding survivors one week after the accident.

Authorities have ordered a major probe into unsafe mining practices and possible corruption that allowed the mine to vastly exceed its safe production capacity, as well as attempts to cover up the disaster.

Investigators say the flood was caused by miners working a seam outside the mine’s registered safe working area.

Mine managers fled after the accident, then reported only five miners dead and drove relatives of the missing across the provincial border in an attempt to keep them quiet.

At least nine of Xinjing’s managers have been detained, but the mine’s owner has fled and his whereabouts are unknown.

Elsewhere in China, at least 13 miners have died in gas explosions and fires this week, according to officials and state media.

Rescuers were trying to determine how many miners were underground at the time of a blast Monday in the village of Siyuangou in the central province of Henan. The disaster occurred just hours after the mine had secretly reopened after being closed in a government safety crackdown.

A local official on Wednesday said eight bodies had been recovered, but more miners could have been trapped.

The mine’s owner and managers fled after the blast, delaying the rescue attempts, the official said.

Local government spokesmen couldn’t immediately be reached yesterday.

On Monday, five miners were killed and 13 injured in a gas fire at a mine in Laochang township in the southwestern province of Yunnan, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Rescue efforts concluded on Tuesday, with those injured reported to be in stable condition, it said.

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