Rescuers were searching for the remaining two miners of a massive coal mine explosion in northeastern China that killed at least 169 people, making it one of the country's worst mining disasters in decades, even as officials said a flood at a separate mine trapped at least 42 workers.
The explosion and the flood are the latest in a series of disasters highly embarrassing to China's Communist-led government, which has repeatedly promised to do more about mine safety.
Mine accidents in China killed 6,027 people last year, according to government figures a rate of 16 deaths a day. The death toll following an explosion a week ago at the Dongfeng Coal mine in China's bitterly cold northeast rose to 169 after searchers found three more bodies in the underground debris, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Rescuers were still searching shafts at the mine in Heilongjiang province for two more missing workers, it said.
Meanwhile, at the private Sigou Coal Mine in Henan province's Xin'An county, 76 workers were underground when the mine flooded on Friday, Xinhua said. Thirty-four miners escaped. Sigou mine owner Jin Changsong allegedly went into hiding after the accident and his mine had no safety license, Xinhua reported.
About 200 rescuers were pumping water out of the mine and trying to reach those trapped, Xinhua said, but there was no indication if they had survived or not. Xinhua did not say what triggered the flood.
The explosion at the Dongfeng mine in Heilongjiang ranked among the deadliest in memory, capping a year that opened with an even larger industrial disaster. In February, a gas explosion killed 214 miners at the Sunjiawan coal mine in Liaoning province, making it the worst mining disaster reported in the country since Communists took control in 1949.
At the Dongfeng mine, 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 plagues China's mining industry.
On Friday six days after the blast they finally concluded that 242 miners were working in the mine when coal dust triggered the explosion. Seventy-three were rescued and at least 167 were killed. Two other miners who were working above ground also died.
Officials initially thought 221 miners were working underground based on the number of miners' lamps handed out, but they later said this was an inaccurate count.
Earlier this year, Premier Wen Jiabao visited some of the families of 166 miners killed in 2004 in north China's Shaanxi province. He shed tears, saying the accident was a "lesson paid for with blood." He promised better mine safety measures and better training.
Many of the mine disasters are blamed on managers who ignore safety rules or fail to install required ventilation or fire control equipment, often in collusion with local officials. The issue is further complicated by the country's soaring demand for power to drive its booming economy, reported AP. P.T.