Local Chinese Officials Fired Over Mine Disaster

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 6:45 am (UTC-5)
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Two local officials near an illegal mining operation in northeastern China have been fired, as rescue efforts continue for 26 workers trapped in a flooded shaft since Tuesday.

State-run Xinhua news agency says the head of Boli county in Heilongjiang province and his deputy were both dismissed Wednesday during an emergency meeting of the local Communist Party.

Xinhua says the provincial government ordered the mine's closure for safety reasons in 2007, but the Xinhua report says the owners reopened the operation on August 16 in defiance of the order.

Rescue crews have been pumping water from the mine, but they have been unable to make contact with the trapped miners.

Xinhua says the men could be trapped in one of four places in the mine.

Forty-five workers were in the pit when they broke through into a neighboring pit filled with water. Nineteen miners managed to escape shortly after the accident.

China's coal mines are the deadliest in the world, with more than 2,400 people killed just last year. Many of the fatalities occurred in small, unregulated operations like the Hengtai mine.