Rescuers worked in subfreezing temperatures Tuesday to find three coal miners trapped by an explosion two days earlier that killed 146 others in northeast China. The blast in the Dongfeng Coal Mine late Sunday underscored shortcomings that have made China's mining industry by far the world's deadliest despite repeated safety crackdowns. It also prompted national leaders to demand stricter enforcement of safety rules.
On Tuesday, roads leading to the mine were blocked several kilometers (miles) away, with police officers and vehicles standing guard. Search efforts were still going on at sundown.
The chance of survival was low because of a high concentration of poisonous gas in the tunnel, Song Kaicheng, an engineer with the group that owns the mine, was cited as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.
Inside the mine compound, rescue workers wearing orange jumpsuits and respirators could be seen making their way through the -12 degrees Celsius (10 Fahrenheit) weather to the mouth of the coal pit. Seventy-two workers have been saved, state media said.
Hundreds of officers in the area took refuge from the cold in 60 police cars and six buses as paramilitary troops brought in food and water for rescue crews.
Xinhua said 146 were killed and state television said two more people died above ground in the blast. It wasn't immediately clear if they were miners.
A man who answered the telephone at the coal mine said that there had been a meeting with relatives Tuesday morning and that mine officials were arranging for counseling and compensation.
The man, who gave only his family name, Liu, refused to give any more details.
The official China News Service said relatives were to receive up to 220,000 yuan (US$25,000; Ђ21,000) in compensation.
The disaster is a setback for Chinese officials struggling to improve safety in the coal mining industry, which has been plagued by fires, floods and other accidents that kill thousands of workers each year. Most accidents are blamed on a disregard for safety rules or a lack of equipment for ventilation or fire control. Local officials often are accused of helping mine owners or managers flout safety rules. "This industry is too corrupt. Safety is no good," said Yuan Yongqing, a 57-year-old retired miner, whose younger brother, Yuan Yongcun, was killed in Sunday's explosion, reports the AP. I.L.