A deadly gas explosion has killed at least 42 miners and trapped more than 60 others, in a Chinese mine on Saturday. The incident occurred at about 2.30 a.m. when 528 people were working hundreds of feet underground. Rescue workers reported that about 400 workers successfully escaped the mine. The Xinxing mine is in Heilongjiang province, which borders Russia and is owned by the Heilongjiang Longmei Mining Holding Group.
A rescue team of about 156 personnel is working on the site to retrieve the trapped workers. The fact that the blast has destroyed the mine’s ventilation and communication system, is making the relief and rescue mission more challenging. The impact of the blast shook the nearby buildings and partially damaged some of them. The falling debris of the buildings left some of the escaping survivors unconscious.
The Chinese Vice Premier, Zhang Dejiang who reached the accident site, met the injured, while Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have personally issued instructions about the rescue work. China has recently and historically, been witness to some of the world’s deadliest mining industry disasters.
China is one of the NPT-recognized nuclear power states but still relies for about 80% of its power needs on thermal power, fueled by coal. Despite a recent government drive to clamp down on the small, unsafe operations where most accidents occur, lax safety standards and strong demand for coal makes these mines the deadliest in the world. The official sources have reported a 12% drop in fatalities in mines in the first seven months of this year over the last year after the smaller operations were closed down. In 2008 alone, more than 3,000 people died in mine floods, explosions, collapses and other accidents in China.