WASHINGTON — ; Twenty-eight mine workers have been confirmed dead and four were rescued from a coal mine gas explosion in the northern Chinese city of Jiexiu in Shanxi Province.
"The city government is now dispatching officials to make consolatory visits to the families of the dead miners," Jiexiu City Publicity Department Director Zhang told RFA. "Their families are quite calm now, and no one went to the accident site to stir things up."
The explosion happened late Monday at the Jinshanpo Coal Mine where 32 workers were working at the time. Only four miners managed to escape after the accident.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday that preliminary investigations into the explosion indicate the mine owner had started mining operations without the proper inspection and approval.
"This news is not accurate. The mine was built in 1984 and began production in 1987 with complete certification. The accident was probably caused by improper handling during production," Zhang said.
Xinhua said that although a problem had occurred with the mine's ventilation equipment shortly before 7 p.m. Monday evening, the mine's manager did not halt operations. Just hours later, at about 11 p.m., dangerously high gas levels caused the mine explosion.
"On the one hand, in order to gain profits, mines continue production even if they are clearly aware of unsafe conditions," acting chairman of New York-based China Labor Watch Li Qiang told RFA. "On the other hand, due to the extreme poverty, many peasants have to take jobs in these mines. To them, it's like betting on their lives. So generally speaking, little effort has been put into mining safety."
China's mining industry has been hit significantly in the last few years with some 7,197 deaths resulting from similar mining accidents in the first 10 months of 2003, according to Agence France-Presse.