A coal mine flooded in southwestern China on late Thursday morning, trapping at least eleven mine workers, officials said. It follows a series of deadly mine accidents in China in recent weeks.
The incident occurred at around 10:30 a.m. local time at the Xinsheng coal mine in Qiaojia township of Guizhou province, according to a spokesman for the State Administration of Work Safety. A total of 18 people were working underground when the mine was flooded.
Seven of the miners were able to escape the mine on their own, but the remaining eleven miners were still trapped on Friday morning. "There are eleven people trapped underground. The rescue work is being carried out," the spokesman said, giving no other details about the incident.
More than 200 rescue workers are working to locate the missing workers.
Safety conditions at mines in China have significantly improved in recent years but they remain among the world's most dangerous with at least 289 fatalities in the first quarter of this year. There were a total of 1,973 fatalities in 2011, 2,433 fatalities in 2010 and 2,631 in 2009, according to official figures.
A series of deadly accidents has hit mines in China in recent weeks. On Monday, a powerful explosion ripped through the Xingya Coal Mine in Bayannur, a prefecture-level city in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region of northern China. More than two dozen people were working at the mine when the blast happened, killing nine of them and injuring sixteen others.
Earlier this month, eleven workers were killed when floodwaters trapped a group of miners who were working at the Shanfu Coal Mine near the city of Changzhi in Xiangyuan County, which is located in Shanxi province. The owner of the mine initially claimed nine miners were trapped, but local authorities later discovered that eleven people were working at the mine which was operating with an expired production license.
China in recent years shut down scores of small mines to improve safety and efficiency in the mining industry. The country has also ordered all mines to build emergency shelter systems by June 2013 which are to be equipped with machines to produce oxygen and air conditioning, protective walls and airtight doors to protect workers against toxic gases and other hazardous factors.
The first manned test of such a permanent underground chamber was carried out in August 2011 when around 100 people - including managers, engineers, miners, medical staff, and the chamber's developers - took part in a 48-hour test at a mine owned by the China National Coal Group in the city of Shuozhou in northern China's Shanxi Province.
One of the worst mining accidents in China in recent years happened in November 2009 when 104 workers were killed after several explosions at a coal mine in Heilongjiang province.