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. Bankers arrested in China mine tragedy, 57 miners still missing

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) May 27, 2006
Two bankers were arrested for their alleged links to a northern China mine tragedy that has left at least 57 miners missing and feared dead in a flooded coal pit, state press said Saturday.

Efforts to pump out the water from the Xinjing mine in Shanxi province continued for the 10th day, as police and prosecutors stepped up efforts to unravel a cover up of the May 18 accident.

At least 15 officials had been arrested in connection with the tragedy including two officials from the Zuoyun county branch of the Agricultural Bank of China, suspected of "responsibility" in the disaster, Xinhua news agency said.

No other details of the bankers' arrest was given, but a soaring demand for energy to fuel China's booming economy has resulted in stepped up investment in coal production, often at the expense of mine safety and in violation of mining restrictions.

"We are hoping for a miracle," an official at the rescue headquarters of the Datong work safety bureau told AFP by phone.

"We are still pumping out the water, there is a very slim hope that they can survive."

The water temperature in the pit was "abnormal," he said, meaning that the bodies of any victims could be stewing in hot water and identifying any potential fatalities may be difficult.

According to China Daily, it would take at least another seven to 10 days to pump out all the water.

"Miners who escaped the accident said the disaster could have been avoided, as the mine showed signs of flooding six days before the accident," the report said.

The accident has made headlines in China not just because of the number of people feared dead, but also because it highlighted the notoriously dangerous coal mining industry's worst traits of corruption, greed and recklessness.

Mine supervisors did not immediately report the accident, then tried to cover it up by paying off the victim's families, destroying evidence and initially only reporting that four men were trapped, reports said.

On Friday, the State Council, China's cabinet, ordered a special inquiry into the accident and dispatched an investigation team to the mine.

Related Links

Chinese officials criticize mine safety as rescue continues
Beijing (AFP) May 22, 2006
Rescuers trying to save 57 miners trapped in a flooded Chinese coal pit began a frantic fourth day of work Monday as officials said the mine was operating illegally.

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