Rescuers were still trying to find six miners yesterday who went missing after Tuesday's serious gas explosion in a coalmine in Shuangfeng, Central China's Hunan Province, which has already killed 33 people.
The 30 rescuers were busy moving fallen coal out of the mine to clear a way to the missing workers.
But Shuangfeng County official Wang Lei told China Daily: "There is little hope of the six missing miners surviving."
Sixteen miners were rescued after the explosion, which ripped through the Qiuhu Coal Mine in Shuangfeng County at 2:30 am as 55 miners toiled deep underground.
An initial investigation concluded that it was a natural disaster, Wang said.
A closed-door provincial meeting was held in the county yesterday to exchange experiences on safety management in coalmines.
Wang said it had been planned before the explosion.
"In coalmine safety, our county has taken the lead in the province and so it was planned to hold the meeting here," said Wang. "Now, the collapsed mine has become a mine from which coalmine officials and miners can learn lessons."
Zhao Tiechui, an official with the State Administration of Coalmine Production Safety Supervision, said Hunan was one of the worst provinces for the frequency of coalmine disasters.
The administration had sent an investigation team to the site, headed by Zhao himself, an administration deputy director.
Coal gas is produced naturally during the mining process and must be dispersed by ventilators before it reaches a dangerous density.
But many mines in China lack basic safety equipment, and miners are usually ignorant of the risks. More than 3,500 miners have been killed so far this year in gas explosions, floods and other incidents.
Wang Xianzheng, director of the administration, recently urged coalmines to avoid overproduction and stay alert on safety.
"Overproduction may lead to a decrease in coal prices and so enterprises' profits will come down," the People's Daily quoted Wang as saying. "As a result, less investment will go into safety management and accidents will become more likely."
China mined 719 million tons of coal between January and July this year, a 24.7 percent year-on-year increase.
(China Daily September 5, 2002)