Chinese rescue attempt to save trapped miners

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Rescuers blasted through mud and debris today to try and reach 27 miners trapped after a massive landslide buried an iron ore plant and several homes in south-western China, leaving 26 people dead and dozens missing.

The landslide buried the Jiwei Mountain iron ore mine and covered its two entrances with rocks on Friday, leaving 27 miners stuck hundreds of feet below ground, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

Authorities believe they could still be alive.

No official death toll has been released, but state broadcaster CCTV reported Saturday that 26 people were killed - 19 miners and seven staff from a mobile phone company.

When asked to confirm the report, Chongqing government spokesman Ai Yang said no bodies had been found so far.

Hundreds of rescuers scoured the debris with sniffer dogs yesterday but found no signs of life, Xinhua quoted a spokesman with the rescue headquarters as saying.

The landslide occurred in Wulong county, about 90 miles from resource-rich Chongqing city, where industrial accidents are common.

Xinhua said the miners were about 490 to 660ft below ground and that authorities estimated that the air and water supply in the mine could support them for five to seven days.

Rescuers tried to reach the shaft where the miners are believed to be trapped by setting off explosives yesterday near one of the mine's entrances, Xinhua said.

More explosives were detonated today, CCTV said. Plans were under way to drill a 130ft deep hole to give the miners air and send down water and food.

Among those missing are residents, telecom company workers and passers-by.

Rescuers pulled out eight people late on Friday, three of them seriously injured.

China's vice-premier in charge of industrial policies, Zhang Dejiang, inspected the rescue work yesterday and urged precautions against secondary disasters, Xinhua said, adding to earlier calls by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to spare no effort to save those buried.

Experts were investigating the cause, Xinhua said.

A landslide last year killed at least 277 people when a holding reservoir burst and inundated a valley in Shanxi province in northern China with mud and iron-mining waste.

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