Page last updated at 07:07 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Men rescued from China coal mine

Rescuers work at the site of the flooded coal mine in Jiaxian County, central China's Henan province, on Monday
It was a lucky escape for most of the trapped miners

Rescuers have lifted out 32 of 34 workers who had been trapped in a flooded coal mine in China for a day.

The accident occurred early on Monday morning at the Gaomendong Coal Mine near Pingdingshan city in Henan province.

Xinhua state news agency reported that one miner was still missing and one other had been found dead.

Of the 42 miners at work at the time of the flooding, eight managed to escape shortly afterwards, Xinhua said.

State media said the mine boss was being investigated for running an illegal operation.

It took the mine owner more than two hours to report the accident.

He is also accused of ignoring reports from miners that water was seeping into the shaft, Xinhua said.

'Illegal' operation

The owner, Lou Gaofeng, had been detained, the agency said, adding the mine had been operating illegally, even though its production licence was valid until November 2009.

"The mine was undergoing a technical renovation... and had yet to be approved for resuming production," said Wang Dexue, deputy head of the state administration of work safety.

"The mine allows a maximum of 28 miners. But 42 people were working underground when the accident happened," said Li Hanwei, vice director of the rescue operations.

It was the third coal mine accident in less than three weeks in Henan, with a total of five miners dying in the two previous accidents, Xinhua said.

China has a dismal work safety record, with thousands of people dying every year in mines, factories and on construction sites.

Nearly 3,800 people died in gas blasts, flooding and other accidents in Chinese coal mines last year, according to official figures.

Independent monitors say the real figure is likely much higher as many accidents are covered up.

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