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Fire and Water Take Toll on Coal Miners
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Three dozen coal miners remain trapped underground following a serious flooding accident on Sunday in Sinan County, near the city of Tongren in southwest China's Guizhou Province. It is unknown whether the men are still alive.

Eighty miners were working inside the Tianchi Coal Mine when water began gushing in at about 12:30 PM.

Rescue operations are under way, with six water pumps moved in from other parts of the province.

Jiang Xueming, an official with the Guizhou Administration of Work Safety, said on Monday that a more powerful pump was needed owing to the depth of the mine, about 260 meters. The pump had been requisitioned and was due to arrive Monday night.

The cause of the flooding is still under investigation.

Premier Wen Jiabao has instructed the provincial government to use all means possible to rescue the trapped miners.

The production capacity of the township-owned mine is 30,000 tons annually. It received a C rating in a safety evaluation conducted by local authorities, indicating that improvements were needed. The lowest rating on the four-step scale is D.

Meanwhile, as of noon Tuesday five men had been confirmed dead in a coal mine fire in Xiangtan County, central China's Hunan Province. Three others were rescued but 13 remain trapped underground.

The accident occurred at around 6:30 PM Monday at the Xinli Coal Mine, located in the town of Tanjiashan.

Local officials immediately called in five teams from nearby areas to assist rescuers at the mine.

A rescue team member said there is no dense harmful gas underground and there is still hope that the trapped miners are alive.

Hunan Vice Governor Xu Yunzhao and Xie Guangxiang, head of the provincial Coal Mine Safety Supervision Administration, are overseeing the rescue operations.

No information was provided as to the possible cause of the blaze.

In another development, the government of Yuxian County in north China's Shanxi Province formed a team on Sunday to investigate the explosion that claimed 33 lives at the Daxian Colliery last Thursday.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency December 14, 2004)

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