Monday 9 July 2012

Miners trapped by flooding at Qielichong Coal Mine in Hunan Province, China.

Sixteen workers were reported trapped by flooding at the Qielichong Coal Mine in Leiyang, Hunan Province, on Wednesday, 4 July 2012, at 6 pm, local time. There were apparently 40 workers in the mine at the time of the flood, 24 of whom escaped promptly. Rescue attempts did not begin till  Thursday morning due to a delay in reporting the incident by the mine owner, who is now in custody. Eight mineworkers were rescued on Sunday morning, with search efforts, reportedly involving more than a thousand people, ongoing for the remaining workers, three of which have reportedly been confirmed to be alive.

Rescue workers carrying a survivor from the Qielichong Coal Mine. Associated Press/Xinhua/Bai Yu.

The flooding was reportedly caused by an inrush of water when the miners broke through into a disused, flooded mineshaft. This sort if accident is, unfortunately, common in areas where mining has been ongoing for some time but record keeping has been poor. The Qielichong Coal Mine is described by authorities as 'licensed', but the area has a history of illegal (i.e. unlicensed) mining, which the government has been trying to clamp down on; it is possible that the miners broke through into one of these illegal, and therefore unrecorded, mines. There have also been a number of  prosecutions for breaches of health and safety regulations at legal mines in the province. It is thought that this may have provoked the owners of the Qielichong Coal Mine to attempt a rescue themselves while concealing the extent of the problem from the authorities, who were eventually called in when the extent of the situation was realized.

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