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Five bodies found in search of flooded China mine

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The relief operation at the mine continues as the survivors recover in hospital

Rescue workers searching for survivors in a flooded coal pit in China's northern Shanxi province have found five bodies, state media reports.

A total of 115 miners have been rescued from the Wangjialing pit in the past two days.

The miners had been trapped in the flooded pit since 28 March, surviving by eating sawdust and coal.

Rescuers say flooding and rising gas levels in the mine are hampering efforts to reach the 33 remaining men.

But they say there is still hope they could be found alive.

Also on Tuesday, five miners were rescued from a pit in Heilongjiang, where they had been trapped by a flood on 1 April.

'Chewing coal'

The five bodies were brought to the surface of Wangjialing mine on Monday evening, the Xinhua news agency reported, without giving further details.

The grim discovery followed jubilant scenes on Monday as 115 of the trapped miners were brought out of the pit alive.

Survivors have spoken of picking sawdust and cardboard out of the filthy floodwaters to eat and of strapping themselves to shaft walls with their belts to escape the water.

"Many of us collected paper floating on the water, put it in our pockets and ate it when we felt hungry," one worker told Xinhua.

"Some even chewed the coal to quench the hunger."

Another man said one group had built a platform to stay above the water.

"More than 20 of us huddled on the platform to stay dry in the flooded pit. We also built rafts in the hope that we might row out, but we failed," he said.

We've been to the hospital but they refuse to tell us if he is still trapped and they refuse to let us in
Yang Xiaolin

Hospital workers said the survivors were suffering from cold, severe dehydration and skin infections from long immersion in water.

Liu Qiang, chief medical officer at the Linfen hospital in Shanxi province, said that some were still in shock from their experiences.

On Tuesday, 60 survivors were taken by chartered train to the nearby city of Taiyuan to receive specialist care. Xinhua said each miner was accompanied by two medical personnel.

Some relatives have complained that they are not being kept informed by the authorities.

Yang Xiaolin, 45, said he did not yet know whether his 35-year-old nephew was one of those who had been found.

"We've been to the hospital but they refuse to tell us if he is still trapped and they refuse to let us in," he told the AFP news agency.

The Hejin City Hospital, where most of the miners were being treated, was reportedly under heavy security.

Numbers doubt

The mine is reported to have flooded after workers broke a wall into an abandoned shaft.

Some 3,000 people have been working round the clock for more than a week to try to pump out water and reach the trapped miners.

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A total of 153 people were said to have been trapped underground, but families say this is an underestimate as many more were working in the mine at the time.

Earlier this week, a preliminary investigation found that officials had ignored water leaks prior to the accident.

China, which relies heavily on coal to fuel its economy, has some of the most dangerous mines in the world.

Most mining accidents the country are blamed on failures to follow safety rules.

The government has stepped up efforts to improve safety in the mining industry in recent years, by enforcing regulations and taking measures to close unregulated mines.

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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