Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety Supervision, said on Saturday the total number of miners underground at the time of the blast at Dongfeng Coal Mine in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang was "close to 300."
Initially, the figure for miners underground at the time of the accident was put at 159. It quickly went up to 221, then to 241, 242 and 243.
By press time last night, 73 had been rescued but at least 167 were reported to have been killed. Two other workers above the ground also died.
Zhao was speaking at a working conference that marked the setting-up of a high-profile investigation team, led by him, into the November 27 accident.
"The management of the colliery was extremely confused," said Zhao. "Attendance registration, lamp issuing and security checks on miners were in a complete mess."
Four mining accidents on Friday had killed 18 people and left 45 missing as of yesterday.
Explosions ripped through two separate coal mines in the southwestern province of Guizhou on Friday morning. Sixteen miners were killed and 15 rescued, with three still missing yesterday.
Also that morning, a cave-in at a coal mine in FanchangCounty in the city of Wuhu, east China's AnhuiProvince, trapped 10 miners at , according to the local government today.
Eight managed to escape but the bodies of the remaining two were found seven hours later.
A fourth colliery, this time in the central province of Henan, was flooded on Friday night leaving 42 miners missing. Eight pumps were still in operation yesterday at Sigou Coal Mine to drain around 3,000 cubic meters of water.
Jin Changsong, the mine owner, went missing after the accident along with several of his managers, Xinhua News Agency reported, and the privately-run mine has no safety license.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency December 5, 2005)