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Page last updated at 07:21 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 08:21 UK

Poor safety standards blamed for China mine flooding

Rescue workers at the mine in Shanxi province, China (31 March 2010)
Rescue teams have had no contact with the trapped miners

Poor safety standards were to blame for a flood in a Chinese mine that has trapped 153 workers for three days, a government watchdog has said.

The safety body said the state-run mine had been overcrowded and managers had ignored reports of water leaking into the tunnels, state media reported.

Some 1,000 rescue workers have been trying to reach the miners in the northern Shanxi province colliery.

But officials say there has been no signs of life from inside the pit.

A total of 261 people were in the mine in Wangjialing when water rushed in. More than 100 escaped, but the rest were trapped.

China's State Administration of Work Safety said the mine's operators had "violated regulations and policies during the work process" and failed to follow the rules for preventing water leaks.

"Water leaks were found numerous times on underground shafts, but still they failed to take action to eliminate the potential risks," it said on its website.

Officials said too many workers had been assigned to dig in the mine, in an attempt to speed up production.

Workers at the mine have also complained about standards and procedures.

Gas risk

"They have been working us too hard. The regulations say we should be working eight hours a day - but they have been working us 16 hours a day and won't let us come out," a man named Dao told the AFP news agency.

"These people have black hearts."

Safety standards have improved over recent years, but China's mines remain the most deadly in the world.

China's Xinhua news agency said six pumps had removed 15,000 cubic metres (530,000 cubic feet) of water from the mine - which is still under construction - by Tuesday evening.

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Rescuers have also started drilling a hole to open up a drainage channel to divert the floodwater.

Officials have warned rescue teams could face a high concentration of toxic gas inside the mine.

No-one knows if the miners, thought to be trapped in a number of underground locations, are alive.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered local authorities to spare no effort to save them, Xinhua said.

Most of those trapped in the shafts are migrant workers from Shanxi, Hebei, Hunan and Guizhou provinces, a rescuer told Xinhua.

The mine covers 180 sq km (70 sq miles).

As rescue efforts continued, Xinhua announced two workers trapped in another flooded mine, in Henan province, had been pulled out alive on Tuesday - eight days after their mine was inundated.

But earlier this month rescue efforts for 31 miners trapped when a coal mine flooded in the Inner Mongolia region of China were halted after two weeks when no signs of life were found.

According to official figures, 2,631 coal miners died in 1,616 mine accidents in China in 2009, down 18% from the previous year.



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