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China still plagued by poor safety in coal mines
August 21, 2014

A explosion at a coal mine in China killed two miners in a tunnel collapse and left 36 miners trapped underground. Eleven other miners were missing after mine in northeast China flooded, killing five, USA Today reported.

Despite some gains in safety, China remains home to the world's deadliest coal mines, resulting in more than 1,000 deaths last year.

The blast on Aug. 19 occurred at the Dongfang coal mine near Huainan city in east China's Anhui province. Thirteen miners were lifted out mostly unhurt, and two bodies were retrieved on Aug. 20 from 1,300 feet and 1,650 feet below ground.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation, according to Xinhua, China's state-run news agency. The privately run mine had flouted an order seven weeks ago by the Huainan city government to suspend coal mine production because of flood season, Xinhua reported.

Although 25 men are trapped underground in Anhui and 11 remain unaccounted for after the mine flooding in Jixi in northeast Heilongjiang province, China's state television broadcaster CCTV gave very little coverage to either tragedy.

CCTV focuses on positive news that reflects well on Chinese authorities and emphasizes negative news about foreign countries. Significant airtime was spent Aug. 20 on the protests in Ferguson, MO, over the killing of a young black man by a white policeman.

Last year, 1,049 coal miners died or were reported missing, according to government figures. The number of fatalities has fallen in recent years because of better government regulation of the industry and the forced closure of thousands of small, mostly private mines, where the majority of accidents occur. But tragedies remain commonplace, as do coverups, partly because of China's ban on independent trade unions and the lack of free media.

Last week, a court in northern China sentenced five people to death for faking coal mine accidents to claim compensation, Xinhua reported. Their crime, like a series of cases in recent years, mirrored the plot of the 2003 movie Blind Shaft by Chinese director Li Yang. The five led a gang that killed four people with hammers in coal mine shafts, then faked accidents to secure money from mine owners in the name of the victims' relatives, the news agency said.

Chinese police confirmed Saturday they had detained two managers of the flooded Jixi mine last week for their role in an attempted coverup, Xinhua reported. Although 25 miners remained trapped in the shaft after the accident, management told authorities that only nine were trapped. Rescue efforts continued Wednesday to free the 11 miners still trapped underground after five bodies were recovered and nine miners were rescued alive.
 

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