Chinese coal mine flood traps 42 miners

Rescuers were Saturday searching for 42 miners trapped after a flood at a coal mine in central China, as the death toll from an explosion at a separate mine rose to 169 with the discovery of another three bodies, the government said.

Forty-eight workers were underground at the Sigou Coal Mine in central China's Henan province when it flooded around 11:40 p.m. (1540 GMT) on Friday, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Six miners managed to escape.

Rescuers were trying to reach the others, it said, but there was no indication if they had survived the flood or not. Xinhua did not say what triggered the flood. Also Saturday, the death toll in a massive coal mine explosion in China's bitterly cold northeast rose to 169 after rescuers found three more bodies in the underground debris, Xinhua said.

Rescuers were still searching the shafts of the Dongfeng Coal Mine in Heilongjiang province for two more missing workers, it said. Officials have been trying for days to get an accurate count of how many miners were underground Sunday when the blast occurred.

On Friday, six days after the blast, they finally concluded that 242 miners were working in the mine when coal dust ignited and sparked the explosion. Seventy-three were rescued and at least 167 were killed. Two other miners who were working above ground were also killed. Officials initially thought 221 miners were working underground based on the number of miners' lamps handed out, but they later said this was an inaccurate count.

China's mines are the deadliest in the world, with fires, floods, cave-ins and other disasters reported almost daily. The government has unveiled one initiative after another to try to stem the carnage, vowing to step up safety inspections and punish mine owners who put profits over lives.

Many of the mine disasters are blamed on managers who ignore safety rules or fail to install required ventilation or fire control equipment, often in collusion with local officials. The issue is further complicated by the country's soaring demand for power to drive its booming economy. Mine accidents in China killed 6,027 people last year, according to government figures - a rate of 16 deaths each day, AP reports.

А. А.

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