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Rescuers prepare to enter the Dongfang coal mine Aug. 19 in Huainan city, China. / Zhang Duan, Xinhua, via AP

BEIJING ?? Rescuers sought Wednesday to reach 36 coal miners trapped underground after two separate fatal incidents. Twenty-five miners remain inside an east China mine after an explosion early Tuesday caused a tunnel collapse and killed two. Eleven other miners are missing after a northeast China mine flooded last Thursday, killing five men.

The deadly accidents highlight the perils of mining in China. Despite recent safety gains, China remains home to the world's deadliest coal mines, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths last year.

The blast Tuesday occurred at the Dongfang coal mine near Huainan city in east China's Anhui province. Thirteen miners were lifted out mostly unhurt, and two bodies were retrieved Wednesday from 1,300 feet and 1,650 feet below ground.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation, according to Xinhua, China's state-run news agency. The privately run mine had flouted an order seven weeks ago by the Huainan city government to suspend coal mine production because of flood season, Xinhua reported.

Bai Fafu, a conveyor belt operator inside the Dongfang mine, told Xinhua he ran when he realized there was smoke around him. "There was no time for panic. I just ran as fast as I could. The smoke thickened quickly," Bai said.

Although 25 men are trapped underground in Anhui and 11 remain unaccounted for after the mine flooding in Jixi in northeast Heilongjiang province, China's state television broadcaster CCTV gave very little coverage to either tragedy.

CCTV focuses on positive news that reflects well on Chinese authorities and emphasizes negative news about foreign countries. Significant airtime was spent Wednesday on the protests in Ferguson, Mo., over the killing of a young black man by a white policeman.

Some Huainan residents expressed anger at the mine's management and lax supervision by officials. "This mine broke the stop-production rule; they ignored people's lives. I hope the government punishes them severely, or other mines may follow their bad example," said Wang Yue, a hotel receptionist in Huainan's Xiejiaji district, where the mine is located.

"The miners are poor people, who have to choose this dangerous job to make a living," she said. "The government and companies must guarantee their safety."

Last year, 1,049 coal miners died or were reported missing, according to government figures. The number of fatalities has fallen in recent years because of better government regulation of the industry and the forced closure of thousands of small, mostly private mines, where the majority of accidents occur. But tragedies remain commonplace, as do coverups, partly because of China's ban on independent trade unions and the lack of free media.

Last week, a court in northern China sentenced five people to death for faking coal mine accidents to claim compensation, Xinhua reported. Their crime, like a series of cases in recent years, mirrored the plot of the 2003 movie Blind Shaft by Chinese director Li Yang. The five led a gang that killed four people with hammers in coal mine shafts, then faked accidents to secure money from mine owners in the name of the victims' relatives, the news agency said.

Chinese police confirmed Saturday they had detained two managers of the flooded Jixi mine last week for their role in an attempted coverup, Xinhua reported. Although 25 miners remained trapped in the shaft after the accident, management told authorities that only nine were trapped. Rescue efforts continued Wednesday to free the 11 miners still trapped underground after five bodies were recovered and nine miners were rescued alive.

Contributing: Sunny Yang



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: China mine disasters point to poor safety record

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