The 172 miners trapped in a flooded coal mine in east China's Shandong province will not be found alive, according to a statement released by the provincial government on Thursday.
After 20 days of rescue efforts, the statement quoted "life scientists" as saying the miners "will not return alive".
The main shaft of the Huayuan mine in Xintai was filled with floodwater on August 17, while miners were working deep underground.
Rescuers have informed the trapped miners' families about the conclusion by the experts.
Rescuers were still pumping water out of the mine on Thursday and had extracted 1.57 million cubic meters of water by Wednesday.
Flood water swept through a 65-meter-wide breach in the Wenhe River levee on Aug. 17, inundating the Huayuan and Minggong mines in Xintai and trapping 181 miners. A total of 756 miners were working underground at the Huayuan mine at the time of the flooding and 584 managed to escape.
Most of the trapped workers were from rural areas of Tai'an City and surrounding areas, said Wang Junmin, vice governor of Shandong.
Minister of Civil Affairs Li Xueju had said the flooding was a natural disaster.
The government and enterprises will provide compensation to the families of the coal mine flooding victims, Li said, adding his ministry was considering to build a compensation system for the victims of natural disasters and was negotiating details with relevant departments.
Local authorities have launched investigations against Zheng Zhenxiu, chairman of the Huayuan Mining Co., Ltd., and Zhang Chanjun, vice general manger of the company.
Huayuan Mining Co., Ltd. is a licensed enterprise with an annual capacity of 750,000 tons. The flooded mine was built in 1957.
As of Wednesday evening, the water level of Huayuan coal mine had fallen to 25.38 meters above the sea level, 67.22 meters down from the previous level. Rescuers have to reduce the water level by 55.38 meters more to reach the nearest location where some of the 172 miners might be trapped.
There was still no word on the fate of the other nine miners trapped by flooding in the nearby Minggong mine.
(Xinhua News Agency September 6, 2007)