HONG KONG—Rescue teams worked around the clock to free any remaining survivors from China's deadliest reported coal mine accident in decades, with at least 203 known deaths.
A nurse at the Fuxin Mining Group Hospital told RFA's Mandarin service said access to the injured had been limited.
"Some divisions have received the order not to let relatives enter the wards," the nurse said. "Although we haven't yet received the order, we may later. I don't know why."
A retired miner said one of his neighbors was working at the time of the blast and remains missing. "His surname is Wang," the retired miner said. "He's over 40 and has two children. The older daughter is married away but not the younger one."
According to China's official Xinhua news agency, the gas explosion occurred late Monday, Feb. 14, in the Sunjiawan coal mine in Fuxin City, in the northeastern rust-belt province of Liaoning.
Some divisions have received the order not to let relatives enter the wards... Although we haven't yet received the order, we may later. I don't know why.
The blast killed 203 miners, with 28 injured and 13 trapped underground, Xinhua said. The cause of the explosion, 242 m (794 feet) underground, is under investigation, officials said.
Chinese President Hu Jintao told local authorities "to spare no effort to rescue those stranded in the mine," Xinhua reported. A rescue team of more than 180 people was working to free trapped workers.
According to official statistics, 6,702 people died in mine accidents in China in 2003, accounting for 80 percent of all deaths from mine accidents worldwide during the same period. But overseas rights groups say the real figure could be as high as 20,000.
Workers reported feeling a sudden, strong tremor shake the mine 10 minutes before the blast, Xinhua said, quoting Zhang Yunfu, vice general manager of the state-owned Fuxin Coal Industry Group, which owns the mine.
Gas detectors lost their signals moments later and one of the mine's main pits filled with smoke, Xinhua said.