At least 153 miners are trapped in an accident-hit mine in north China's Shanxi Province as rescuers struggle to save them from a flooded pit.
A total of 261 miners were working in the pit of the under-construction Wangjialing Coal Mine when underground water gushed in on Sunday afternoon, in the latest mining mishap to hit the world's largest coal producer.
Of them, 108 were lifted safely to the ground while 153 others are believed to be trapped in the shaft, official Xinhua said quoting officials of the rescue headquarters.
"Most of the trapped are migrant workers from Shanxi, Hebei, Hunan and Guizhou provinces," a rescuer said. The exact number of people trapped is still being checked.
Soon after the accident, the Shanxi Provincial Work Safety Administration and the Shanxi Provincial Emergency Affairs Office said 152 people were trapped underground, but officials later changed the figure to 123.
Rescuers are struggling to save the trapped people, and local authorities are investigating the cause of the accident. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao ordered local authorities to spare no effort to save the trapped while guarding against secondary accidents.
Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang rushed to the site on Sunday night to oversee the search and rescue operation.
The mine, located between Xiangning County of Linfen City and Hejin City of Yuncheng City, covers about 180 square kilometers.
The mining zone boasts more than 2.3 billion tonnes of coal reserves, including nearly 1.04 billion tonnes of proved reserves, according to the company's official website.
It is now under infrastructure construction and is expected to produce six million tonnes of coal annually once put into operation.
The mine, affiliated to the state-owned Huajin Coking Coal Co Ltd, is a major project approved by the provincial government.
This is the second mine accident this month in energy hungry China where frequent coal mine accidents are reported despite assertions by the government of improving safety measures.
Earlier this month, 31 miners were trapped in a flooded coal mine in the Inner Mongolia region of China.
Twenty people died in an illegal coal mine in central China, after a fire broke out there.
According to recently released official figures, 2,631 coal miners died in 1,616 mine accidents in China in 2009, down by 18 per cent from the previous year. The government says the fall was due to a tightening of regulations and the closure of some 1,000 smaller and less well-regulated mines.