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China gold mine fire kills 16 workers

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 7, 2010
Sixteen workers died when a fire broke out in a gold mine in east China, state media reported Saturday, in the latest accident to hit the nation's notoriously dangerous mining sector this week.

Most of the victims died of toxic smoke inhalation underground or in hospital after the accident, which happened on Friday in Shandong province's Zhaoyuan city, the official Xinhua news agency said.

More than 300 miners had been working underground when the blaze started and most were lifted to ground level safely, but about 50 were left trapped, a spokesman for the rescue headquarters was quoted as saying.

Rescuers then gradually managed to pull more workers out until the last seven were rescued earlier Saturday.

Dozens of injured miners were sent to nearby hospitals, and most of these did not have life-threatening conditions, doctors were quoted as saying.

"We smelt a pungent odour and suspected something might have gone wrong. We closed the vents and waited to be rescued," said Lu Ming, one of the miners being treated in hospital, according to Xinhua.

The work safety bureaus in Zhaoyuan and Shandong refused to comment on the accident when contacted by AFP, and calls to the city and provincial governments went unanswered.

According to an initial investigation, the blaze broke out in a shaft at the gold mine when an electric cable caught fire. The mine was fully licensed but police have taken the director in for questioning, Xinhua said.

Meanwhile, a gas outburst at a coal mine in the southwestern province of Sichuan on Saturday trapped six miners underground, the report said, in yet another accident in the sector.

China's mining industry is plagued by lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency.

Earlier this week, a total of 32 people were killed in two coal mine accidents.

An explosion rocked a colliery Tuesday in the southwestern province of Guizhou, killing 16, state media reported.

Sixty miners were working underground when the accident happened in Renhuai city, but many managed to escape or were saved.

Late Monday, 16 workers were killed when deadly gas leaked into a pit at the Sanyuandong coal mine in Dengfeng city in central Henan province.

Last weekend, 24 miners were trapped in a flooded pit in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, while 17 others were killed in an explosion at a mine in the northern province of Shanxi.

The government regularly pledges to clean up safety problems in its mines but deadly accidents are still routine.

Only last month, Premier Wen Jiabao lamented the nation's "serious" work safety situation, ordering mining bosses to work side-by-side with workers in the pits to ensure that companies more closely observe safety rules.

Last year 2,631 miners were killed in China, according to official figures, but independent labour groups say the actual figure could be much higher as many accidents are covered up to avoid costly shutdowns.




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Japanese rescue-bot can sniff out disaster survivors
Tokyo (AFP) July 30, 2010
Japanese emergency services are to trial a small tank-like rescue robot that can search rubble for survivors and deliver water, food or cellphones in disaster zones. The fire department of Chiba City, east of Tokyo, will test the QUINCE prototype from next month, said Eiji Koyanagi, robotic engineering expert at Chiba Institute of Technology. "People die because they despair. If the robo ... read more

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