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Key Suspect in Coal Mine Disaster Cover-up Caught
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A key suspect in an attempt to cover up a coal mine flooding that trapped 57 miners, the country's deadliest mining accident this year, was arrested on Friday, officials said.

The suspect, Zhang Shengsheng, who was in charge of mining and work safety at the time of the May 18 accident at Xinjing Coal Mine in north China's Shanxi Province, fled after the accident.

Listed as the accident's most wanted fugitive by the Ministry of Public Security, Zhang was arrested in Ejin Horo Banner, in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on Friday along with his mistress. Zhang was the 10th person to be detained in relation to the accident.

The mine's owner, Li Fuyuan, who had earlier been identified as the chief manager, has also been arrested.

Three local officials have been suspended from their posts, and police are still searching for one other suspect, mine labor contractor Wang Laowu, the rescue headquarters said.

The suspects and local authorities in charge of work safety had tried to cover up the accident by reporting that only five miners had been trapped.

Rescuers were still battling to save the 57 trapped miners, and "efforts will not stop until all the bodies are found," said Peng Yuying, an official with the State Administration of Work Safety.

By Friday lunchtime about 36,000 cubic meters of water had been pumped out of the mine, lowering the water level beneath the shaft by 1.2 meters, he said.

"But experts estimate that to pump all water out of the pit, seven to 10 days are needed."

Miners who escaped the accident said the disaster could have been avoided, as the mine showed signs of flooding six days before the accident.

However, management ordered them to keep on mining, they said.

(China Daily, Xinhua May 27, 2006)

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