35 killed in mine accident in China

Agence France Presse

Beijing, May 1:

Thirty-five miners were today reported dead and another 16 missing in two coal mine accidents in China that underscored the dismal plight of many Chinese workers on International Labour Day.

The accidents came as China pledged to improve worker’s rights and a Hong Kong-based labour rights group warned that a total lack of independent worker’s organisations was contributing to the appalling safety record in Chinese mines.

A gas explosion ripped through a mine in northern Shanxi province yesterday leaving 35 dead and one missing, while 15 miners were feared dead after a flood in an illegally operating mine in neighbouring Inner Mongolia, officials and press reports said today. Shanxi governor Zhang Baoshun interrupted his May Day holiday to direct rescue operations at the Liangjiahe state-owned mine near Linfen city, Shanxi Coal Mining Safety Inspection Bureau spokesman Hou Jieyan said.

But before the blast, the mine had intended to work through the week-long labour holiday.

“Under ordinary circumstances, coal mines do not take vacations, we must work continuously. If we want to stop work, then we need to go through all the safety inspections again and this is very troublesome,” Hou said.

Hopes of saving 15 miners at the Xinyuan coal mine in Wuhai city, Inner Mongolia, faded as water levels in a mine shaft rose above the level where the miners were working, officials there said.

“According to the rescue team on the scene, the level of water has exceeded the area where the miners were working... they are trying their best to rescue them but the flooding is serious,” a mining safety bureau official named Xu said.

The township-owned mine also had no plans to shut down for the Labour Day holiday, he said.