New mine tragedy amid safety pledges

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 March, 2005, 12:00am

Disaster strikes as Wen Jiabao pushes for more responsibility

Sixteen miners were killed and 11 remain missing in the nation's latest coal mine disaster.

The tragedy came as officials at the National People's Congress plenum issued repeated pledges to improve work safety.

The accident, in Shanxi province, coincided with the release of a Xinhua report which described how Premier Wen Jiabao recounted - tearfully - his recent visit to the Chenjiashan mine on New Year's Day. An explosion at the state-owned mine in Shaanxi province claimed 166 lives in November.

The report also described Mr Wen as having a 'heavy heart' on hearing news of the Fuxin mine blast in Liaoning province on February 14 - two days after he issued an instruction to local authorities to improve work safety.

Wednesday's accident took place at 6.40pm while 83 miners were working in the pit in Lingdi village, Jiaocheng county, Xinhua said in a separate report.

Fifty people were led out uninjured and six were sent to hospital.

China News Service said the rescue effort was led by Shanxi Vice-Governor Jin Shanzhong and the provincial work safety supervision director, Gong Anku .

Arriving at the scene of the accident yesterday to lead the investigation were the head of the General Administration of Work Safety, Li Yizhong , and the director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, Zhao Tiechui , according to a spokesman for Mr Zhao. It was still not known if the mine had been operating illegally, he said.

In Beijing, Mr Wen told NPC delegates from Shanxi, which tops China's coal production list with an output of 331.76 million tonnes a year, that a sense of responsibility was crucial in enforcing mine safety. Of the 1.95 billion tonnes of coal produced last year, 1.2 billion tonnes had come from unsafe mines, Xinhua quoted him as saying at a meeting on Wednesday.

'Speaking with hindsight, the mine accidents were not unavoidable if [everyone involved] was more responsible. Most of the recent mine disasters could [have] been avoided if they paid more attention to their responsibilities.'

Official figures showed that about seven miners are killed each day on the mainland. And from 2001 to last October, there were 188 accidents in which more than 10 lives were lost.

CPPCC delegate Zhang Bao-ming, former head of the State Administration of Work Safety, said officials at all levels, related government departments and mine operators should be responsible for safety. He said the zeal of operators to take advantage of the current good market was behind the current situation.