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Coal Mine Flood Could Have Been Prevented, Say Miners
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The coal mine accident, in which 57 coal miners are still trapped in the flooded Xinjing Coal Mine in Zuoyun, north China's Shanxi Province, could have been avoided, according to the miners who managed to escape.


Miners told Xinhua that the mine showed signs of flooding six days before the fatal accident. However, the management ordered them to keep on mining.


"On May 18, a team leader had an argument with the management as he insisted mining should stop because it was too dangerous. He was slapped in the face by a manager," said a miner surnamed Yang.


The angry team leader did not go to work underground and escaped from the accident, he added.


Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, has blamed excessive production for the accident. The coal mine had a license to produce 90,000 tons a year, but it produced 130,000 tons from March 2 to May 18.


Rescuers are still battling to save the 57 trapped miners in the flooded Xinjing Coal Mine in Zuoyun, north China's Shanxi Province.


The water level beneath the shaft is falling as pumping continues and the rescuers have mobilized high-power pumps from major mines nearby to speed up the process.


A large crowd of miners and family members of the trapped miners have gathered in front of the rescue headquarters, waiting eagerly for news.


"I ran as quickly as possible and didn't dare look back when a fellow worker shouted that the mine was flooded," said a miner Jian Guihong, who escaped from the shaft.


Jian was the only one that escaped from the mine out of his 12-member team. "I don't know whether the others in my team are dead or not," he said.


"I hope my husband is rescued - our two children are both under the age of two," said a 29-year-old weeping Cao Jianlin, whose husband Cao Zhigui is among the 57 trapped miners.


Cao Zhigui and his family came to Zuoyun to work at the mine only two months before the accident.


Nine management staff, including the owner of the miner Li Fuyuan, have been detained by the police. However, two managers, including one who was responsible for work safety, have gone into hiding, said Bai Yulong, spokesman of the rescue headquarters.


Bai also said the local public security department had frozen 11 million yuan (US$1.38 million) in 11 accounts owned by the management staff and recovered 8 million yuan (US$1 million) in cash.


Chang Rui, Party secretary of Zhangjiachang Town, where the mine is located, and Liu Yongxin, the township head, have been suspended from their posts.


Zuoyun County has also ordered the suspension of coal production at all the local collieries for safety inspections following the fatal flooding.


Local safety authorities had earlier tried to cover up the deadly accident by reporting that only five miners were trapped.


The management had rented taxis to transfer family members of the trapped miners to the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Shanxi's close neighbor, to prevent them from rioting and speaking to the press.


(Xinhua News Agency May 25, 2006)

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