China Mine Blast Kills 26, Survival Chances For 11 Trapped Frail: Update

(ITN)

With five more bodies found in central China's Henan Province, the death toll from an explosion in a Chinese coal mine has risen to 26 as of Sunday morning, state media reported.

Rescuers were battling to reach the 11 miners still trapped underground, but chances for them to survive were very slim, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing Du Bo, deputy chief of the rescue headquarters as saying.

"Based upon past experience, the remaining 11 miners could be buried in coal dust, so the survival chances are frail," Du said.

The gas leak occurred at 6:03 a.m. Saturday (2200 GMT Friday) when 276 miners were working underground in a pit owned by Pingyu Coal & Electric Co Ltd based in Yuzhou City, Xinhua said, According to the report, a total of 239 workers escaped but 21 were found dead and 16 were trapped.

An initial investigation showed that 173,500 cubic meters of gas leaked out in the accident, and more than 2,500 tones of coal dust smothered the pit after the blast, which hampered the rescue, Du said.

The accident comes in the wake of Chile's marvelous rescue of 33 miners trapped for 69 days underground.

Chile's rescued miners returned home as celebrities on Friday after the underground ordeal which lasted for more than two months. The rescue operation cost about $18 million, according to a top government official.

In China, over 2,600 people have died in coal mine accidents in 2009 alone, according to data from Reuters.