26 trapped in flooded China mine for days

Twenty-six miners have been trapped for two days in a flooded coal mine in north east China and it could take several more days for rescuers to pump the shaft clear, state media reported today.

The illegal mine in Qitaihe, in Heilongjiang province, filled with water on Tuesday when workers broke through into an adjacent flooded pit, newspapers and the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Nineteen miners made it back to the surface.

Rescuers have yet to make contact with the trapped workers, who could be stuck in any of four places inside the mine, the reports said.

Seven officials have been detained over the mine's operation and the head of surrounding Boli county and his deputy have been dismissed from their posts, the reports said.

The mine had been ordered shut in 2007 but was reopened without permission on August 16, Xinhua said, citing the provincial bureau of occupational safety.

China's mines are notoriously dangerous, although safety improvements have cut annual fatalities by about a third from a high of 6,995 in 2002 despite a tripling in the output of coal used to generate the vast majority of China's electrical power.