Rescuers pump out water to save 13 trapped miners

Updated: 2011-10-14 07:08

By Zhou Huiying and Xu Wei (China Daily)

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Rescuers pump out water to save 13 trapped miners

Workers lay water pipes on Thursday to rescue 13 miners trapped underground when a coal mine in Jidong county of Heilongjiang province flooded on Tuesday. [Photo / Xinhua]

JIXI, Heilongjiang - China's safety watchdog said on Thursday that a mine owner failed to inform local authorities about a flood on Tuesday that trapped 13 miners in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province.

The local government did not know about the accident until it was tipped off by the public on Wednesday afternoon, the State Administration of Work Safety said.

Twenty-four miners were working underground at the Jindi coal mine in Jixi city, Heilongjiang province, when the accident occurred, with 11 of them managing to escape.

The owner of the mine, surnamed Xiong, initially denied having workers trapped at the flooded mine and finally revealed the truth after four hours of police interrogation, authorities said. He has already been in police custody.

As of Thursday, 480 rescuers have been dispatched to the rescue scene, including rescue forces from neighboring coal mines.

"Although I don't know the miners personally, I feel like it is my brother trapped underground," said rescuer Guan Xingbo, 45, before jumping into a cart that took him to the pit hundreds of meters deep.

Guan came from neighboring Yintai coal mine with 40 other miners and their rich underground experience gives them expertise for the rescue.

Six ambulances with their engines on were waiting outside the pit and water pumps have been draining water from the mine at 430 cubic meters per hour.

The miners have been trapped in areas 550 to 600 meters below ground, their usual operation area. However, as of Thursday night, the pumps are still working at a level of 520 meters.

Experts estimated the total volume of leaked water to be 15,000 cubic meters and the huge amount is an enormous challenge to the rescue work.

Xu Chunling, an official from the Jixi government, said the reason for the flooding could only be determined after all the water in the pit is drained.

The privately-owned Jindi mine was established in 2005 and was legally licensed, authorities said. It has a yearly production of 90,000 tons.

An inspection team has been sent by the State Administration of Work Safety to investigate the accident.

The safety watchdog also said other regions should learn from the accident and step up the supervision of mining activities.

The last time the coal-rich province reported a major mine accident was on Aug 23, when 26 miners were trapped in a flooded coal mine in Qitaihe city, with two killed and one still missing.

Xinhua contributed to this story.