Rescuers have blocked up a burning coal mine in northeast China, saying they are certain the three miners trapped in the shaft are dead.
The blaze at the Xiyanghong Coal Mine, in Liaoning Province, has been burning since Friday morning, said local authorities.
The lack of oxygen and build-up of carbon monoxide made survival in the mine impossible, said Shang Chunjie, director of Coal Industry Bureau of Dengta City.
The rescue operation had become too dangerous due to unexploded dynamite in the mine and the continuous build-up of gas because of the broken ventilation system, Shang said.
The blaze could burn for several months, said Shang.
With the consent of the miners' families and the provincial government, the mine was blocked at 4:00 PM on Sunday to cut the oxygen supply.
The blaze started at about 8:00 AM in the mine in Huazi Town of Dengta City, when nine miners were working underground. Two managed to escape unhurt.
By 8:00 PM, the fire was mostly under control, but still burning in isolated pockets, allowing rescuers to recover four bodies.
Twenty-one rescuers were organized to search in shifts for the three missing.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
All coal mines in Dengta City have been ordered to suspend production. The Xiyanghong Coal Mine is a licensed private mine.
(Xinhua News Agency January 23, 2007)