LEIYANG, CHINA (BNO NEWS) -- Search-and-rescue work continued on Friday for sixteen workers who are trapped at a flooded coal mine in central China, local authorities said, but there is little hope of finding survivors. The owner has been arrested after failing to alert authorities.
The incident happened at around 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday when 40 people were working underground at the Qielichong coal mine in Sandu township, located near the city of Leiyang in Hunan province. Twenty-four people managed to escape safely, but the remaining sixteen people were trapped.
The flooding was not reported to local authorities until about 6:30 a.m. local time on Thursday, more than 12 hours after the incident happened. It was not immediately clear why officials were not alerted to the incident, and police have arrested mine owner Liu Yaping while an investigation continues.
The state-run Xinhua news agency reported that four teams of rescue workers arrived at the scene on Thursday morning and were able to drain the mine of flood water and resume ventilation in the shaft within hours. The rescue work continued on Friday morning, but there was little hope of finding survivors.
Safety conditions at mines in China have significantly improved in recent years but they remain among the world's most dangerous with at least 289 fatalities in the first quarter of this year. There were a total of 1,973 fatalities in 2011, 2,433 fatalities in 2010 and 2,631 in 2009, according to official figures.
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