Forty-two miners remain trapped underground after an unlicensed coal mine in central China flooded last Friday, but a China News Service report on Sunday said rescue workers hoped to be able to bring them to safety as the water level underground has been decreasing by about one meter per hour.
State Administration of Work Safety officials refused to comment on the report to Xinhua News Agency, but said they were still pumping water around the clock from Sigou Coal Mine in Xin'an County, Henan Province in efforts to try to save the miners.
The colliery was already on the province's list of mines instructed to shut down in September.
Meanwhile, on Monday night accident workers found the remains of the last miner known to have been killed in November 27 explosion at Dongfeng Coal Mine in Qitaihe, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
Sources from rescue headquarters said the death toll was now 171: 169 who were working underground and two women working in the generator room on the surface.
The State Administration of Work Safety said 242 miners have been confirmed as working underground at the time of the explosion, though on Saturday officials had said the number was 243, and Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety Supervision, speculated it could be "close to 300." Immediately after the accident it was reported as 159.
Only 73 miners escaped the site of the blast or were saved, and families of 159 victims had signed compensation agreements as of yesterday.
(China Daily December 6, 2005)