Local authorities yesterday gave up the search for survivors of the flooded coal mine in southern China's Guangdong Province after over three weeks' rescue efforts, setting the death toll at 123.
After confirming there was no hope of survival for the 117 miners still trapped, and with the approval of the provincial authorities, rescue headquarters ordered a stop to their operations on Monday afternoon.
He Jianqing, rescue headquarters spokesperson, told a press conference the shaft has held a huge amount of water and the geological situation underground is too complicated for rescue operations to be continued safely.
Over the weekend, rescuers had to suspend work when a section of the mine collapsed.
The flooding occurred at Daxing Coal Mine, Xingning City at 1:30 PM on August 7 as 127 miners worked underground. Only four escaped, and there was initial confusion over the number missing as 11 mine officials fled before being detained by police.
The bodies of six miners have since been recovered.
The mine had been operating without a license and in violation of local government orders to shut down for inspections after a July flooding at another Xingning pit killed 16.
State-level special investigators have been dispatched to look into whether any corruption was involved.
Those found to be responsible for the accident could face a maximum of seven years' imprisonment.
Victims' families will be given practical support in addition to 200,000 yuan (US$24,700) in compensation, said He.
Chinese coal mines are notorious for their high death rates. According to the General Administration of Work Safety (GAWS), 2 billion tons of coal was produced last year with the loss of 6,000 miners' lives.
Coal mine accidents across the country killed 2,672 more miners in the first six months of 2005 than the same period last year, a 33 percent rise. Most of those killed were farmers who left their land to work in the mines.
(Xinhua News Agency August 30, 2005)