China mine flood toll climbs to 35 | world | Hindustan Times
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China mine flood toll climbs to 35

The death toll from a coal mine flood in north China has risen to 35, the nation’s work safety watchdog said on Monday, as hopes of finding any more survivors faded two weeks after the disaster.

world Updated: Apr 12, 2010 10:45 IST

The death toll from a coal mine flood in north China has risen to 35, the nation’s work safety watchdog said on Monday, as hopes of finding any more survivors faded two weeks after the disaster.

Rescue work was still going on at the unfinished Wangjialing mine in Shanxi province, China’s coal-producing heartland, the State Administration of Work Safety said, with three workers still unaccounted for.

The March 28 flood at the mine had left 153 workers trapped underground, but 115 were rescued alive last week, in what officials described as a “miracle” for the country’s notoriously dangerous coal mining industry.

The rescue effort has stalled in the past week, with high water levels, blocked passages and hazardous gas levels hindering progress, and rescuers have been recovering several bodies each day.

Gao Guoshun, director of the provincial health bureau, said the 115 men saved last week were all in stable condition, with only 12 cases described as serious, the Global Times reported Monday.

The workers have been receiving up to six meals a day to restore their strength after more than a week in the mine shaft. Some have said they survived on dirty water, tree bark, paper and even nuggets of coal.

“I have a strong will to survive,” one worker, Chen Zhongtuan, was quoted by the Global Times as saying.

“The miners used different ways to survive and all believed that we would be rescued. We had to drink contaminated water.”

Safety concerns are widely ignored in China’s coal mines in the rush to satisfy surging demand for the fuel -- source of about 70 percent of the country’s energy.

The flood is the latest deadly accident to embarrass the government, which had responded to frequent mining disasters in recent years with a much-touted campaign to improve safety and shut dangerous mines.

More than 2,600 miners were killed in China last year, according to government figures, although labour activists say the actual numbers are probably far higher.