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Henan Coal Mine Blast Toll Rises to 66

Rescuers in Daping Mine of Henan Province Friday retrieved the remains of four more victims of a fatal gas explosion, which brought the death toll to 66.


Sources with the Henan Provincial Administration of Coal Mine Safety Supervision said two bodies were found at 10:00 a.m. while the other two were discovered at around 5:00 p.m.


Rescuers continued their round-the-clock efforts in search of the 82 miners who are still missing, though everybody knows the survival chance for the trapped is quite slim.


Rescuers have reduced the average gas density to normal and repaired a major passageway overnight to speed up the flows of rescuers and rescue vehicles, said Li Hongshan, an official in charge of production at Daping coal mine.


The monitoring system at the rescue headquarters showed that at 7:22 a.m. Friday communication was yet to resume at several locations in the mine. At 9:20 a.m., four truckloads of cable arrived for replacing what had been destroyed in the blast.


Happening at 10:10 p.m. Wednesday, the accident was the most serious one this year.


The survivors recalled that the blast was triggered by the high concentration of gas underground the Daping Mine, when 446 miners were working, only 298 managed to escape.


The coal mine belongs to the Zhengmei Group, a 4,100-employee coal giant with an annual production of 6.6 million tons.


Ma Wenhua, an executive of Zhengmei Group, said five people out of the 148, who were trapped underground, come from Anhui, Hubei and Sichuan provinces, while the rest are locals. Many of the victims are brothers or relatives.


Yi Huaishan, 35, and his two brothers all worked for the same mine. His older brother was confirmed dead in the blast, and the whereabouts of his younger brother remain unknown.


Yi was on the night shift working above ground when the accident happened. "I heard three big explosions and saw the mine frame vibrate and then a dense smoke outburst," he said. Yi had been at the mine for just four months.


"No one was permitted to enter the mine and no one told us news about our family members. My elderly brother has heavy family burdens of both parents and young children," sobbed Yi, pointing at his pregnant sister-in-law.


The identities of 50 dead miners have been confirmed but the compensation standard is still unsettled.


"Formerly, the standard was 30,000-50,000 yuan (3,750-6,250 US dollars). We hope it could be raised to some extent this time," said Xing Yangkun, a 39-year-old miner.


All coal mines of the Zhengmei Group have been ordered to suspend production for safety check, and the Provincial Coal Industrial Bureau also ordered Friday that all coal mines in the province to immediately inspect the hidden dangers.


(Xinhua News Agency October 23, 2004)


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