Image: China rescue workers
Rescue crews work to free Chinese miners trapped after a coal mine flooded Monday.
updated 7/30/2007 8:48:12 AM ET 2007-07-30T12:48:12

Nearly 70 miners trapped for more than 24 hours in a flooded coal mine in central China were still alive Monday, and rescuers were trying to send them supplies through a long ventilation pipe, state media said.

“The 69 miners are in a safe place and their mood is stable,” China News Service reported.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the miners talked with authorities via a fixed line telephone and reported no injuries but requested food and water. The area where they were trapped was dry and had electricity but the ventilation was poor, it said.

The 69 were trapped when the Zhijian mine in Henan province’s Shan County flooded early Sunday. Thirty-three miners managed to escape immediately.

Rescue workers have set up pumps to suck water out of the mine and are also pumping in air, Xinhua said.

Earlier Monday, heavy rains had hampered rescue efforts by triggering landslides on both sides of the mountain road leading to the mine.

Cover-up probed
Meanwhile, Xinhua reported that authorities in Linfen, a city in the northern province of Shanxi, were investigating whether mine managers at the Liziping Coal Mine deliberately covered up a July 5 flood that left nine workers dead. An anonymous tip sparked the probe, it said, without giving specific details.

China’s coal mines are the world’s deadliest, with fatalities reported nearly every day in fires, explosions and floods despite government efforts to improve safety.

Deadly accidents often are blamed on mine owners who disregard safety rules and fail to invest in required ventilation, fire control and other equipment.

In another area of northern China, five coal mine managers were sentenced last week to up to life in prison for an explosion that killed 26 miners. Authorities said the managers kept the mine running in defiance of orders to close.

Weather woes
Floods, landslides and mud flows triggered by torrential rains have killed 652 people in China so far this year, with more heavy rains in the forecast, state media reported Monday.

Xinhua News Agency, quoting the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, also said the flooding had caused $6.9 billion in direct economic losses.

The floods, mostly in southern and eastern China, have destroyed 452,000 homes and affected 119 million people, Xinhua said.

Visitors to a park in Wuhan, China, were not deterred Sunday by flood waters from the Yangtze River.
Meanwhile, in east China's Jiangxi province nearly a million people were suffering drinking water shortages after a month-long drought. Xinhua said 820,000 people and 460,000 head of livestock were affected and at least 77,000 acres of farmland had been ruined.

Summer is peak rainy season in China, where millions of people in the central and southern part of the country live on farmland in flood plains.

Flooding and typhoons killed 2,704 people in China last year, according to the China Meteorological Administration. That was the second-deadliest year on record after 1998, when summer flooding claimed 4,150 lives.

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