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Rain Hinders Efforts to Rescue 122 Miners

Heavy rain has led to increased difficulties for rescuers trying to find 122 miners still missing in the flooded Daxing Coal Mine in Xingning Prefecture of south China's Guangdong Province, according to local authorities yesterday.

Rains swept through the area over the weekend, causing rescuers to suspend their attempts to find the exact spot where water has been flowing into the mine.

Experts said hopes of finding any survivors among the missing miners was almost zero after more than eight days underground.

Measures against the tropical storm Sanvu, which hit eastern Guangdong on Saturday, were also taken in the mine area.

"We still don't know where the water is coming from, and if the rain continues we might have to halt work to prevent further accidents," Li Chong, a local government official, told China Daily.

Though water levels in the tunnel dropped slightly after another large water pump began working on Saturday, they increased yesterday after the rains and little progress has been made since, said Li.

"Rescuers have no new information about the missing miners," Li said. The flooding trapped a total of 123 people and the body of only one has been recovered so far.

A violation of safety production rules has been identified as the main cause of the accident, since the mine continued operating even after being ordered to suspend production following 16 deaths in a flooding at nearby Fusheng Coal Mine on July 14.

The local government announced yesterday that a special fund of about 1.8 million yuan (US$222,000) will be earmarked for miners who worked at the colliery.

"The money will mainly be allocated to miners, including those trapped, to pay their salaries for July and the first week of August, and to repay their work safety deposits for the first seven months of this year," said Li.

Miners are asked to pay work safety deposits before going underground that are only usually returned if they have not been involved in breaking safety regulations.

Li said final compensation amounts for the bereaved and any survivors have not been decided as the main job at the moment was to "try everything to save them."

Local police have started collecting DNA samples from families of the trapped men, according to Li, "in preparation for identifying bodies if they are found."

(China Daily August 15, 2005)

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