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Sunday June 23, 2024

Two dead, more than 50 missing in China mine collapse

EIght rescue teams comprising more than 330 personnel have been sent to the site along with over 100 pieces of rescue equipment

By AFP
February 22, 2023
A worker transfers material to an underground coal mine in Huaibei in Chinas eastern Anhui province on February 16, 2022. — AFP
A worker transfers material to an underground coal mine in Huaibei in China's eastern Anhui province on February 16, 2022. — AFP

BEIJING: At least two people were killed and more than 50 are missing, state media reported, after an apparent collapse at a coal mine in northern China's Inner Mongolia region on Wednesday.

State broadcaster CCTV said a collapse occurred at a mine in the western part of the Alxa League region around lunchtime, with other outlets and government agencies describing it as a "landslide".

"Currently, the incident has caused the deaths of two people and injured six, with 53 missing," CCTV said in a social media post.

A video on social media purportedly posted by a coal truck driver appeared to show rocks cascading down a slope, kicking up clouds of brown dust that engulfed several vehicles.

"The whole slope has collapsed... How many people must be dead from that?" a male voice can be heard saying in the background.

"If I'd lined up over there today, I'd have died in there, too," he said.

CCTV reported earlier on Wednesday that the incident had affected a "wide area" of an open-pit mine operated by the Xinjing Coal Mining Company.

"A number of working staff and vehicles have been buried," the broadcaster said at the time, adding that rescue personnel have been sent to the scene.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has instructed authorities to "do everything possible to search for and rescue the missing people", CCTV reported.

Officials must "use all their strength to rescue and treat the injured, protect the security of people's lives and property as well as overall social stability", Xi said, according to the broadcaster.

Eight rescue teams comprising more than 330 personnel have been sent to the site in the Luanjingtan ecological zone, along with more than 100 pieces of rescue equipment, the government of Alxa League said in a statement.

Footage broadcast by CCTV late Wednesday showed rescue workers in military-style jackets working by torchlight to unload and sort bundles of supplies from the back of a truck.

Nearby, a group of people could be seen hastily assembling a row of emergency response tents, while a yellow excavator smoothed out the dusty ground.

Phone calls to the mining company by AFP went unanswered on Wednesday evening.

Frequent accidents 

Located in China's arid north, Alxa League is a sparsely populated region whose economy runs largely on mining and other extractive industries.

Mine safety in China has improved in recent decades, as has media coverage of major incidents, many of which were once overlooked.

However, accidents still occur frequently in an industry where safety protocols are often lax, especially at the most rudimentary sites.

Some 40 people were working underground when a gold mine in the northwestern Xinjiang region collapsed in December.

In 2021, 20 miners were rescued from a flooded coal mine in northern Shanxi province while two others died.