HONG KONG—At least 62 people have been killed and a further 86 reported missing following a massive gas explosion at a coalmine in the central Chinese province of Henan, in one of the worst mining accidents in China this year.
Rescuers at the Daping coalmine in the central province of Henan had recovered a total of 60 bodies in the wake of the blast, which occurred at 22:47 p.m. local time Oct. 21 at the state-owned mine in Xinmi.
“We’ve recovered 62 bodies. There are still 86 people left down there,” a mining company official told RFA’s Mandarin service. “It is a very long way [from the pithead], around 2,000 meters [yards].”
Outside the office buildings of the Daping mine, the bodies of victims lay covered with green canvas, awaiting identification by dozens of people with roster lists, Xinhua news agency reported.
"If there's a gas explosion in a mine, it is likely to cause the deaths of all the people working in that section."
Families of those missing were told by mine and labor union officials to stay by their telephones and wait for news. But no other support was forthcoming a full day after the accident, relatives told RFA’s Mandarin service.
“We can’t find out what’s going on,” the wife of one missing miner, Zhou Huaiyu, told RFA.
She said Zhou had been forced to work in the mine after the state-owned Zhengmei Mining Co. took over his land, leaving him with no way to earn a living.
“He was just over 40. We have four daughters,” Zhou’s wife said.
The local government dispatched more than 1,000 rescue workers to the mine shortly after the explosion, while a special team led by top industrial safety officials from Beijing had already arrived in Xinmi.
A total of 446 miners were at work underground when the accident occurred, and 298 miners escaped. So far, 56 miners have been confirmed dead.
A further 20 injured miners, including 4 severely injured ones, had been admitted to the General Hospital of the Zhengzhou Coal Industry Group, Xinhua reported.
The Daping mine, which is located under Songshan Mountain 40 kms (25 miles) southwest of Zhengzhou, has a total payroll of 4,100. It began operation in 1986 and has an annual production capacity of 1.3 million tons.
"A thousand tons of coal costs 13 lives in the United States, 50 lives in India, and 700 lives in China."
China’s coalmines feed 70 percent of the booming economy’s energy needs, but coal production comes at a heavy price in human life. In the first six months this year alone, 3,758 people died in mining accidents, according to official figures.
Government labor union officials, who have become more vocal in recent years on industrial safety, say coalmining takes more lives than all of China’s other industries put together.
“Around two-thirds of industrial accidents take place in coalmines, and gas explosions make up around two-thirds of those,” All China Federation of Trade Unions Industrial safety official Tang Chun told RFA’s Mandarin service.
“If there’s a gas explosion in a mine, it is likely to cause the deaths of all the people working in that section. Mass accidents like that, the sort that kill 20 or 30 people in one go, are extremely unlikely in other industries,” Tang said.
China has the worst mine safety record in the world. A thousand tons of coal costs 13 lives in the United States, 50 lives in India, and 700 lives in China, according to industry experts.