Two mayors have been blamed for the colliery flooding which has trapped at least 123 miners in southern Guangdong Province, and have been suspended, local government announced on Tuesday.
He Zhengba, mayor of Meizhou, and Zeng Xianghai, mayor of Xingning, were accused of incompetence for having failed to properly supervise coalmine operations and production in the area under their jurisdiction, according to the provincial government.
The accident occurred at about 1:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Daxing Coalmine in Ningxing City which is under the authority of Meizhou City. An estimated 15 million to 20 million cubic meters of water gushed into the mineshaft. Only four miners escaped.
Previous reports said the number of miners trapped was 102, but 21 more names were added to the missing persons list on Tuesday, You Ningfeng, vice governor of Guangdong and head of rescue operations, said.
"They are trapped about 480 meters underground. The chances of survival for the trapped miners are slim. They have been trapped for more than 55 hours," You added.
Nevertheless, Huang Huahua, governor of Guangdong, pledged: "If there is a tiny hope, we will spare no efforts in rescuing the trapped miners."
After being questioned by police, Zeng Fanjin, the owner of the privately-run colliery, fled leaving no records.
Management staff also fled but many have returned after the local government issued a notice on Monday calling for their return.
"The tragedy was caused by the owner's greed for economic profits and blatant violation of safety rules," Li Yizhong, director of the National Bureau of Production Safety Supervision and Administration, said.
Li said that the mine owner did not have a valid production license. In addition, the owner ignored a local government order to suspend production. Local government had ordered all mines in Xingning to suspended operations for safety examinations following a similar incident on July 14.
According to local government, the Daxing Coalmine was founded in 1990 with a designed annual production capacity of 30,000 tons of coal.
"However, investigations show that the mine produced about 60,000 tons of coal in the first half of this year alone," Li said.
The provincial government ordered a suspension of operations of all coalmines in the province on Tuesday.
Guangdong currently has more than 260 coal mines, mainly small ones, with a total annual output of 8.1 million tons of coal.
(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2005)