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Gas Blast Claims 81 Miners
Eighty-one miners are confirmed dead and five remain missing after two days of exhaustive rescue operations following a massive gas blast at a colliery in East China's Anhui Province.

The 28 injured mine workers who made it to safety are receiving hospital treatment, said an official, surnamed Zhang, speaking at the scene yesterday.

A total of 114 miners were working underground when an explosion ripped through the Luling Coal Mine, operated by Huaibei Mining Group on Tuesday afternoon.

Nineteen of the injured were taken to the hospital affiliated to the mine, said a doctor surnamed Xing with the hospital.

"Most of the patients here are in a stable condition, except for one, who suffered comparatively severe burns,'' he said.

The remainder, who suffered more serious injuries are being treated at the general hospital affiliated to the Huaibei Mining Group.

Lin, a doctor with the general hospital, told reporters that those victims had suffered 50 per cent body surface burns and fractures and were on the critical list.

A series of measures has been taken to ensure the on-going rescue, said Zhang, the mine official. Rescuers have succeeded in adjusting and restoring the mine ventilation system to reduce the temperature and also install anti-dust equipment to reduce the risk of a coal dust explosion, which can be triggered by high underground temperatures.

Preventative measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the rescue workers and to supervise and test the pit atmosphere, said Zhang.

Following the accident, a team of officials sent by the State Council arrived at the Luling Coal Mine. They have instituted specific arrangements for the rescue work and investigations into the cause of the disaster and directed that local governments draw whatever lessons possible from it.

Wang Xianzheng and Zhao Tiechui, director and deputy director of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), ordered an all effort be put into the rescue.

On behalf of his team, Wang expressed his condolences to the families of those who had died and offered his gratitude to those involved in the dangerous rescue operation.

"Although there is little chance the missing miners will be found alive, the rescue efforts will continue, with the top priority to save miners lives right now,'' he said.

The SAWS has ordered an immediate safety overhaul in all domestic mines to prevent repeat disasters.

In Anhui, the provincial government ordered a halt to production at all of the coal mines in Huaibei while safety checks are carried out. These moves will be mirrored province-wide with rectification steps taken to identify hidden risks and prevent future workplace accidents.

On Wednesday, the work safety authority in Anhui also issued a notice ordering that work safety evaluation be carried out on all mining operations.

The Luling incident is the second coal mine accident in China this year to claim more than 50 lives, according to the SAWS.

(China Daily May 16, 2003)

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