8 Apr 2010 13:02

Death toll in Henan coalmine accident rises to 40

Shanghai. April 8. INTERFAX-CHINA - The death toll from an explosion at a coalmine in Yichuan County, Henan Province has risen to 40, with another six miners still missing, state media reported on April 8.

The blast occurred at the Yichuan Coalmine in Luoyang City at 7:20 pm on March 31. Of the 40 who perished in the blast, 35 were working underground, while five were killed and another was injured near the mine's entrance. More than 50 miners managed to escape from the underground mine shaft.

More than 500 rescuers remain at the site searching for the six missing miners, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Yichuan Coalmine has an annual production capacity of 150,000 tons, and is privately owned by Guomin Coal Industry Co. Ltd..

The local government halted production at the mine in May of 2009 due to safety issues, but the order to suspend production was apparently not enforced.

The coalmine's owners and its safety inspector fled immediately after the accident, but were subsequently captured and are currently in police custody, according to the report.

The absence of the mine's management in the aftermath of the accident hampered rescue efforts, as rescuers did not have access to maps and diagrams of the mine.