staff and news service reports
updated 10/19/2010 5:11:41 AM ET 2010-10-19T09:11:41

Rescuers on Tuesday recovered the bodies of the last of the 37 coal miners trapped by a gas leak at a Chinese mine over the weekend as authorities announced an official investigation into the incident, state media reported.  

The official Xinhua News Agency reported that rescuers had found the remaining five bodies trapped underground after a deadly gas leak Saturday at a mine in Yuzhou city in central Henan province.

The State Administration of Work Safety said on its website that the bodies were found at 7:35 a.m. local time after 300 rescuers dug through about 2,756 U.S. tons of coal dust at the mine.

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China's mines are the deadliest in the world, due to lax safety standards and a rush to feed energy demand from a robust economy.

More than 2,600 people died in coal mine accidents in 2009 alone.

Another gas leak in 2008 at the same mine, currently owned by the Pingyu Coal & Electric Co. Ltd, killed 23 people.

'Major flaws in safety management'
A team headed by the chief of the State Administration of Work Safety will investigate the incident, Xinhua reported Tuesday.

Noting the 2008 leak, team leader Luo Lin in a statement obtained by Xinhua: "This time another incident of more severe consequences happened. It shows the coal mine has major flaws in safety management and measures to prevent gas leaks have not been effectively put in place."

An initial investigation had found that 6 million cubic feet of deadly gas leaked out Saturday.

Rescuers had said they expected there to be little chance of any missing miners being found alive, although 239 people were able to escape the leak on Saturday.

Officials didn't say which type of gas leaked, but methane is a common cause of mine blasts.

In this incident, there was no explosion but mine safety officials said they were afraid the missing men may have suffocated and been buried by coal dust.

The accident occurred after Chile's dramatic rescue last week of 33 miners trapped for more than two months underground.

Chinese media had very detailed coverage on the Chilean rescue, but information has been very limited on the Chinese mining accident.

Mining deaths have decreased in recent years as China closed many illegal mines or absorbed them into state-owned companies, although deaths jumped in the first half of this year.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.


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