The death toll in China’s worst mine accident in nearly three years rose to 43 on Saturday, with three miners still trapped underground.
State media said on Saturday that the three had slim chances of survival because they were believed to be located at the centre of the explosion that shook the Xiaojiawan coal mine on Wednesday afternoon in coal-rich Panzhihua city in the southwestern province of Sichuan.
Police detained the mine owners, and the Sichuan government launched a province-wide safety check on all coal mines and pledged to shut down those with safety hazards.
There were 154 miners working at the mine when the explosion occurred, and 108 survivors have been pulled to the surface.
It is China’s deadliest mine accident since November 2009 when 108 people were killed in an explosion in a mine in Heilongjiang province.
The official Xinhua News Agency said the rescue work was dangerous because of high temperatures in the mine and dense carbon monoxide that meant only mask-wearing paramedics were able to enter the shaft.
Xinhua quoted one miner, Xu Changyong, as saying he heard the explosion and then ash started coming out of his air compressor before he scrambled out of the mine.
Of the miners who made it to the surface, 50 are suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and seven are in critical condition, Xinhua said.
The mine is owned by Zhengjin Industry and Trade Co. Ltd. and the owners were in police custody for investigation, the Panzhihua city government said in a statement posted on its official microblogging site.