Xiangning: Rescuers worked frantically on Monday to try to find more than 150 workers trapped in a flooded coal mine being built in northern China, the latest disaster to hit the notoriously dangerous sector.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered authorities to go all-out to save the workers at the vast Wangjialing mine in Shanxi province, China`s coal-producing heartland, where the accident took place on Sunday.
The flood was the latest in a series of accidents plaguing China`s coal mines, which are among the most dangerous in the world. More than 2,600 were killed in the country`s collieries last year, according to official data.
If the trapped workers are not rescued, the accident in Xiangning county will be the deadliest in China in more than four years. In November 2005, 171 workers died after an explosion in a mine in the country`s northeast.
Investigations so far have shown that 261 workers were in the Wangjialing pit as water started to gush in -- 108 were brought to safety, but 153 were still trapped underground, the nation`s work safety administration said.
"I was so scared as I couldn`t go forward anymore. Luckily there was an alleyway behind me... I just ran up from there, without thinking, and the water was chasing me," survivor Fan Leisheng told state television.
"To survive down there around 1,000 metres underground would be very lucky."
A preliminary probe showed that water that had accumulated in nearby abandoned pits leaked into the new mine where the workers were located, it added.
Dozens of police cars and ambulances were parked at the mine, which belongs to the state-owned Huajin Coking Coal company and covers an area of 180 square kilometres (70 square miles).