18 miners trapped in flooded shaft in China

BEIJING (AFP) – Rescuers in northeast China were racing Tuesday to reach 18 miners trapped underground after torrential rain flooded the shaft in which they were working, state media said.

The accident at the Hongyuan coal mine in waterlogged Jilin province happened early Tuesday as the miners recovered machinery that had been soaked after days of heavy rain, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Rescuers were frantically pumping water out of the mine, which is located in the lower reaches of the Daluoquangou River before a reservoir upstream releases floodwaters.

“Time is very pressing,” Zhang Dejun, a spokesman for the Tonghua city government, was quoted as saying.

China’s mining industry is plagued by lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency.

Last year 2,631 miners were killed in China, according to official figures, but independent labour groups say the actual figure could be much higher as many accidents are covered up to avoid costly shutdowns.

Jilin province has been battered by torrential rain and flooding this summer, which have left at least 85 people dead and 66 missing.

China has been hit by its worst flooding in a decade, with more than 2,100 dead or missing since the start of the year, according to official figures.

More than 12 million others have been forced to flee their homes.

The figures do not include the toll from weekend mudslides in northwestern China, which have killed at least 337 people and left 1,100 more missing.

Until recently, heavy rains had mostly hit China’s south, swelling the Yangtze River — the nation’s longest waterway — and some of its tributaries to dangerous levels. But the northeast and northwest have now also been affected.

Nationwide floods have triggered deadly landslides, cut off roads, left villages inaccessible and knocked out communications and water supplies in the worst-hit areas.