Last China mine bodies removed

2010-10-19 13:30

Beijing - Rescuers pulled out the bodies of the last five trapped workers from a colliery in central China on Tuesday, putting the final death toll from the gas blast at 37, the government said.

The State Administration of Work Safety said in a statement that "all 37 victims had been found" in the mine in Henan province's Yuzhou city, dashing dim hopes of survival just three days after the disaster struck.

A total of 276 miners were at work below ground when the accident happened early on Saturday, and 239 made it to the surface.

Since then, hundreds of rescuers had been working to find the missing, believed to have been 50 to 80 metres below the pit entrance at the time of the incident, but heavy coal dust had slowed their progress.

Du Bo, deputy director of the rescue operation, has said the missing miners were likely to have been buried in the more than 2 500 tonnes of dust that smothered the pit after the blast.

Last year, more than 2 600 miners died in job-related accidents, according to official data - about seven people a day. But independent labour groups say the actual number of deaths was probably much higher.

Authorities have repeatedly vowed to shut dangerous mines and increase safety, but accidents continue with regularity as mines rush to pump out the coal on which China relies for about 70% of its energy.

The Yuzhou mine accident was the first major one in China since the dramatic rescue of 33 miners trapped for more than two months in Chile - prompting web users to make angry comparisons between the countries' safety records.