At least 47 coal miners are still trapped underground after disasters struck at three pits on Monday.
Rescuers said at least two miners were trapped in the most recent accident, which occurred in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province at about 8 PM on Monday when a mine collapsed in the city of Jixi.
Sources with the provincial coal mine supervision authority said the privately run mine was not registered with local supervision authorities and was operating illegally.
The cave-in followed two major accidents in central China's Hunan and Henan provinces, which left 45 miners trapped.
The first accident happened at about 3:40 PM on Monday when the Changcheng mine in Zhuzhou City, Hunan, flooded, trapping 12 people, said Huang Fangming, of the provincial administration of coal mine safety.
Rescue teams were dispatched from neighboring cities to help with the operation to reach the miners, but heavy rains had hampered their efforts, Huang said.
Changcheng mine is privately operated and has a production capacity of 30,000 tons a year. Its license and certificates were valid, Huang said.
Also on Monday, 33 miners were trapped after an explosion in a coal mine in Baofeng County in Henan Province.
Forty-two miners were working underground when the blast occurred and only nine managed to escape, local government sources said.
Local police are seeking six people in connection with the incident, including the mine's owner, manager and two deputy managers, all of whom have disappeared. Police have frozen the mine owner's bank account.
Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, and provincial safety officials arrived at the scene of the accident to direct the rescue operations.
A total of 4,746 coal miners were killed in thousands of gas blasts, floods and other accidents in 2006 as mine owners pushed production beyond safety limits to meet robust demand and boost profits.
A further 661 were killed in the first three months of this year, down 15.6 percent from a year earlier, but there was a succession of cover-ups of fatal accidents in March, State media said, blaming mine owners and local officials.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency April 18, 2007)