123 trapped in China coal mine

BEIJING: At least 123 workers were today trapped underground after underground water gushed into a coal mine in northern China, a government agency said.

The Wangjialing coal mine in Shanxi province was flooded by underground water as a total of 261 miners were working in the pit inside, the State Administration of Work Safety said on its Web site.

The administration said 138 of the miners were lifted up safely to the ground but the others remained trapped and rescue work was under way.

It said the cause of the flood in the mine was still under investigation.

Although China’s mine safety record has improved in recent years, it is still the deadliest in the world, with blasts and other accidents common.

The coal mine is located between Xiangning county and the city of Hejin and covers an area of 180 square kilometers, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Calls made to the mine today rang unanswered.

State broadcaster CCTV said today the heads of the country’s coal mine and work safety administrations were leading a team of workers and rescuers on their way to the site to assist with the rescue efforts.

According to China’s Work Safety Administration, a total of 2,631 people died in coal mine accidents in the year 2009.

Many accidents were blamed on lax safety methods and poor training in coal mines as mining companies scramble to feed the country’s voracious demand for coal.