Rescuers recovered the body of the last miner missing after a coal mine explosion in northern China, bringing the final death toll for the blast to 171, the government said Tuesday. Rescuers found the body late Monday night, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The blast at the Dongfeng Coal Mine on Nov. 27 in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang was sparked when airborne coal dust caught fire, according to state media. Officials tried unsuccessfully for days to get an accurate count of how many miners were underground when the blast occurred, highlighting the mismanagement and inattention to safety protocols that plague China's mining industry. It was finally determined that 242 miners were working underground at the time. Only 73 escaped the site of the blast or were rescued. Two female staffers working above ground when the blast occurred were also killed.
The accident prompted Premier Wen Jiabao to declare over the weekend that the Chinese mining industry was "chaotic and without safety enforcement in place," according to Li Yizhong, the director of China's State Administration of Work Safety.
Li paraphrased Wen's comments during a meeting of administration officials on Monday, a statement on the administration Web site said. Li also heaped criticism on Ma Jinguang, the boss of the state-owned Dongfeng mine. Li said having Ma in charge was a "disaster for miners and an insult to mining officials."
State media earlier said Ma had been declared a role model in mine management 10 days before the Nov. 27 accident. He has since been detained along with another mine official, the China Daily newspaper reported shortly after the explosion.
Meanwhile, rescuers at the Sigou Coal Mine in central China's Henan province were trying to save 42 miners trapped underground after a mine flood on Friday, Xinhua said. A total of 76 miners were working underground at the time and 34 of them escaped.
The mine's owner, Jin Changsong, and two other mine officials were detained after having fled, Xinhua reported Monday. Jin did not have a safety license for the mine, reports the AP. I.L.