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China: Around The Nation

Four Chinese tomb raiders die after breathing toxic fumes

Thieves had rigged up a generator to power machinery digging underground, leading to build-up of deadly vapours

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 4:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 4:21pm

Four men who were trying to dig a shaft into an ancient Chinese tomb died after breathing in toxic fumes underground, according to a newspaper report.

The men were killed on Tuesday night in Zunyi in Guizhou province while working in the shaft to reach a Song dynasty (960-1279) tomb listed as a conservation site by the local government.

Eight men were in the eight-metre deep hole, while two others kept watch, according to the Guiyang Evening News.

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The men used a fuel generator to power machinery to break down rocks underground to reach the tomb, but had covered the shaft entrance with quilts to block the noise. It led to a build up of toxic fumes.

Three men died in the hole while the others managed to get a fourth man to hospital. He later died.

The tomb raiders claimed to medical staff they were coal miners who had breathed in toxic gas.

While doctors were giving emergency treatment to the unconscious man, three others fainted.

Doctors were suspicious as there are no coal mines in the district and they reported the men to the police, the report said.

The two lookouts have been arrested. The other four are in a stable condition in hospital.

The tomb has been raided multiple times before this incident, according to the newspaper.

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Two elderly people who live a few hundred meters from the tomb said they had heard nothing on Tuesday night.

“Last October some men took shovels to the tomb area and stayed there for days. We thought they were doing some surveying work,” one of the pensioners was quoted as saying.