Rescuers have found the bodies of all 33 miners trapped by the gas explosion that ripped through the Jinshangou Coal Mine on Monday in Chongqing, Chinese state media reported this morning.
The Chongqing Administration of Coal Mine Safety has ordered all other coal mines in the city to shut down operations until they can be assessed for safety risks, according to Xinhua News Agency.
According to the latest notice issued today by China’s State Administration of Work Safety, the central government and state administration are also urging “each region to learn hard lessons from the incident, genuinely improve the work safety of coal mining in all aspects, and resolutely curb the incidence of major accidents.”
The notice stated that investigators have found that the Jinshangou mine, which is privately owned, has been illegally mining in geologically unsound areas and has not met standards for maintaining air circulation inside the mine. Improper ventilation causes natural gas released during mining to become trapped in the mine, which can then be ignited by a flame or electrical spark.
In addition, the notice stated that the mine has not been keeping up-to-date records of the areas where it was operating and where miners were being sent.
The explosion, referred to in Chinese media as the “10-31 Incident”, took place at 11:33am on Oct. 31 while 35 workers were in the mine.
Two miners escaped without injuries, and 18 bodies were recovered by rescuers the following day. Three electrical stations were knocked down by the blast, which also caused a cave-in of the tunnels and injured workers nearby.
Round-the-clock rescue operation came to an end at 2:02 a.m. this morning with the recovery of the other 15 bodies.
The managers and legal representatives of the mine have been detained by police for questioning, according to Xinhua.
China’s mining industry is notorious for its incident rate, with hundreds of miners killed each year according to the Work Safety Administration. This is down from the reported death rate in the thousands during the previous decade, but it is still estimated that Chinese miners are 70 times as likely to die on the job compared to their American counterparts. There were 256 mining accidents reported in 2015, and an estimated 88 percent of accidents are caused by gas explosions.
In Chongqing, according to Youbian.com, six fatal mining accidents took place in the first week of October alone. The last incident in Chongqing of a similar scale to the Oct. 31 blast took place in June, 2014, in which 22 miners were found dead after being trapped by a gas explosion at a state-owned mine.
Cover image of rescue mission at the Jinshangou Coal Mine on Oct. 31, from Youth.cn