Five miners were confirmed dead and 26 remained missing after a coal mine fire in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province broke out early on Saturday, rescuers said.
The fire was detected at around 3:30 a.m. in the Fuhua mine in Hegang City, when 43 miners were underground, the rescue headquarters said.
Twelve managed to escape while 31 remained trapped. Rescuers found five bodies but then had to evacuate due to the thick smoke and high gas density in the shaft.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Fu Jianhua, the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety deputy director, and Gai Ruyin, Heilongjiang's vice governor, arrived at the mine to direct the rescue operation.
The licensed mine, in Xingshan District of Hegang, is privately-owned by the Fuhua Mining Co. Ltd and has an annual production capacity of 60,000 tons.
The city has ordered all its coal mines to stop production while safety inspectors were required to go to all of the city's coal mines for checkups.
(Xinhua News Agency September 21, 2008)