A total of 172 were still trapped in a flooded coal mine in east China's Shandong Province although a levee breach that was blamed for the flooding was closed up early Sunday morning.
More than 2,000 Chinese People's Liberation Army troops, armed police and miners managed to close up the levee breach on the swollen Wenhe River at 3:38 a.m. Sunday.
The flooding occurred at around 2:30 PM Friday in the coal mine of Huayuan Mining Co. Ltd in Xintai City, about 150 kilometers south of Jinan, the provincial capital.
A total of 756 miners were working underground at the time of the flooding and 584 managed to escape.
Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao ordered late Saturday all-out efforts into the rescue work, and asked rescuers to "promptly mobilize equipment and personnel resources available and take all necessary measures to rescue the trapped miners".
Torrential rain swept Xintai on Friday and early Saturday with a precipitation of 232 millimeters, triggering flash flood and a 50-meter breach in a levee on the Wenhe River.
Floodwater from the river poured into the coal mine at 2:30 p.m. Friday via an obsolete shaft and caused the accident.
Most of the trapped workers were from rural areas in Tai'an City and surrounding areas, said Wang Junmin, vice governor of Shandong.
Zhang Yulin, a worker with a nearby coal mine, said he was called up to close the breached levee at around 3:00 AM on Saturday together with others.
Authorities have summoned high-power pumps from the provinces of Henan, Hebei and Shanxi to speed up pumping operation.
The rescue headquarters ordered all coal mines near the banks of the Wenhe River to stop production and evacuate all miners.
Residents in the low-lying areas downstream were also told to get prepared to evacuate.
Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, is at the site overseeing rescue efforts. He ordered a speedup of water pumping operation and "try every means to rescue the trapped miners".
The work safety watchdog issued on Saturday an emergency notice urging coal mines to draw lessons from the Huayuan mine accident and immediately take preventive measures against rainstorm-triggered floods.
Huayuan Mining Co. Ltd is a licensed enterprise with an annual capacity of 750,000 tons. The flooded mine was built in 1957.
In a separate accident in Xintai, nine people were trapped in the Minggong coal mine after it was flooded at around 8:00 PM Friday because of the rainstorm.
Ninety-five people were working underground at the time of the flooding, and 86 managed to escape.
Earlier this month, all 69 miners trapped in a flooded coal mine in central China's Henan Province for three days were rescued in one of the most successful rescue operations in coal mine accidents in China.
(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2007)