Post-quake rock slide kills 4, leaves 50 missing at central China coal mine

SANMENXIA, CHINA (BNO NEWS) -- At least four workers have been killed and dozens more remain missing after a rock slide at a coal mine in central China, shortly after a light earthquake rattled the region, officials said.

The accident happened at around 7.45 p.m. local time on Thursday in the Quianqiu Coal Mine, which is located in the city of Sanmenxia in Henan province. The rock slide in the shaft of the coal mine happened less than 30 minutes after a 2.9-magnitude earthquake struck the area.

The State Administration of Work Safety said a total of 75 people were working underground when the accident happened, but 14 were able to escape on their own. As of Friday evening, four miners had been found dead, seven were rescued alive, and the remaining 50 were still missing.

Of the seven workers who were rescued, six suffered minor injuries while the seventh was reported to be seriously injured. Rescue efforts were continuing on late Friday, but it was not immediately clear if the earthquake was the direct cause of the rock slide.

The Quianqiu Coal Mine is owned and operated by Yima Coal Group, a major state-owned coal enterprise in Henan.

Safety conditions at mines in China have significantly improved in recent years but they remain among the world's most dangerous with 1,083 fatalities in the first seven months of 2011 alone. There were 2,433 fatalities in 2010 and 2,631 in 2009.

On Saturday evening, a total of 29 mine workers were killed when a gas explosion ripped through the Xialiuchong Coal Mine in Hengyang, the second largest city in the country's Hunan Province. Five people were rescued and taken to a local hospital while a sixth miner was able to free himself.

China in recent years shut down scores of small mines to improve safety and efficiency in the mining industry. The country has also ordered all mines to build emergency shelter systems by June 2013 which are to be equipped with machines to produce oxygen and air conditioning, protective walls and airtight doors to protect workers against toxic gases and other hazardous factors.

The first manned test of such a permanent underground chamber was carried out in August when around 100 people - including managers, engineers, miners, medical staff, and the chamber's developers - took part in a 48-hour test at a mine owned by the China National Coal Group in the city of Shuozhou in northern China's Shanxi Province.

One of the worst mining accidents in China in recent years happened in November 2009 when 104 workers were killed after several explosions at a coal mine in Heilongjiang province.

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