5 die in SW China mine as hope fades for 47 trapped in north

February 27, 2023 GMT
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In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, rescuers work at the site of a collapsed open pit coal mine in Alxa Banner in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Friday, Feb. 24, 2023. Rescuers have changed their approach to search for dozens of people missing from a coal mine collapse in northern China to avoid further landslides, state broadcaster CCTV reported Friday. (Lian Zhen/Xinhua via AP)
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In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, rescuers work at the site of a collapsed open pit coal mine in Alxa Banner in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Friday, Feb. 24, 2023. Rescuers have changed their approach to search for dozens of people missing from a coal mine collapse in northern China to avoid further landslides, state broadcaster CCTV reported Friday. (Lian Zhen/Xinhua via AP)

BEIJING (AP) — At least five workers were killed in a roof collapse at a mine in southwestern China, as hope appeared to be fading for 47 miners trapped under tons of rubble after a mining disaster last week in northern China.

Deadly mine disasters occur regularly in China, although authorities have reduced their toll greatly by emphasizing safety and closing smaller operations that lacked necessary equipment.

In the mine in Sichuan province, 25 miners were underground when part of the roof collapsed Sunday morning. Five were killed, three were badly injured and the others escaped, the provincial Department of Emergency Management said. Reports said the mine did not produce coal, but gave no details.

Meanwhile, rescue efforts were continuing at the open-pit mine in the Inner Mongolian region’s Alxa League. The death toll remains six with six others pulled from the rubble alive. The cause for the collapse of a mine wall six days ago is under investigation and an unknown number of people have been detained.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an “all-out” search-and-rescue effort and local authorities have ordered inspections and safety improvements at other mines in Inner Mongolia that produce much of the coal, metals and rare earths the Chinese economy depends on.

Calls to the Ministry of Emergency Management rang unanswered on Monday. The last official report on the rescue effort Saturday said two corridors had been cleared to bring in more equipment and ground-penetrating radar had also been deployed.

Previously, more than 1,000 rescuers were sent to the scene, using heavy machinery, along with life-detection equipment and rescue dogs.

Hours after the initial cave-in, another landslide halted rescue efforts for several hours during the crucial period for rescuing survivors. Since then, crews were carefully excavating by layers to avoid causing more landslides.