194 miners trapped after fatal blast

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 February, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 February, 2005, 12:00am

Rescuers were last night searching for 194 miners trapped underground in a coal mine in Liaoning province after a gas explosion left at least 25 people dead.

Xinhua said the explosion happened more than 200 metres underground yesterday afternoon at the Sunjiawan coal mine in Fuxin city . As many as 194 miners had not been reached more than six hours after the blast.

'Their situation - whether they are dead or alive - remains unclear,' Xinhua said.

'At present, rescue workers are racing against time to find [the miners] and an investigation of the incident has been launched.'

At least another 19 miners were injured in the blast.

Provincial leaders had already sent top officials to Fuxin to take charge of the rescue operations, Xinhua said.

Yesterday's explosion came less than three months after a gas explosion ripped apart the Chenjiashan coal mine in Shaanxi province , killing 166 workers.

The tragedy prompted Premier Wen Jiabao to pay a visit to the victims' relatives last month during which he urged cadres to step up safety work at coal mines.

The mainland's coal mines are notoriously dangerous. According to official statistics, 6,027 people were killed in coal-mine-related accidents last year, but some experts say the figure could be higher as some mine owners pay off victims' relatives to hide accidents.