181 Chinese miners feared dead in flood

XINTAI, China – Rescuers raced Saturday to pump water out of two coal mines flooded by a rain-swollen river in eastern China, where 181 miners were missing and feared dead.

Water levels were rising, work areas were submerged and the miners “had only slim chances of survival,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Wang Ziqi, director of Shandong province’s coal mine safety agency.

Crews closed the breach and installed pipes and five high-speed pumps in the mines in this town southeast of Beijing, Xinhua reported. There was no word on whether there were signs of life.

The Huayuan Mining Co. mine flooded Friday when the Wen River burst a dike, sending water pouring into a shaft and trapping 172 miners, according to state media reports.

Nine more miners were trapped when water poured into the nearby Minggong Coal Mine on Friday evening, according to Xinhua. It was not clear whether the second flood was due to the same dike break.

The director of China’s industrial safety agency, Li Yizhong, ordered emergency crews to “try every means to rescue the trapped miners,” the agency reported.

Storms that swept through the region on Friday and Saturday dumped more than 9 inches of rain, Xinhua said. About 2,000 soldiers, police and miners were working Saturday to close the 175-foot gap in the Wen dike, the agency reported. The water was 61/2 feet deep at the breach, the report said.

State television showed work crews dumping sacks of earth and derelict trucks and buses into the gap.

A miner, Xu Qinyu, was quoted as saying the mine control center received a warning Friday that the Wen dike was breaking and miners immediately began evacuating.

The report did not say whether all the miners were alerted to the break or how far from the surface the missing miners were believed to be.

China’s coal mines are the world’s deadliest, with thousands of deaths a year in fires, floods and other disasters. Many are blamed on managers who disregard safety rules, fail to install required fire-control equipment or push miners to dig far more coal than the mine’s license allows.

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