Seven Chinese coal miners have been confirmed dead in a flooded pit as hopes dimmed of finding 29 trapped colleagues alive, state media said on Wednesday.
The disaster is the most recent in a grim series of accidents to blight China's coal mining industry, the deadliest in the world, as mine owners push production beyond safety limits in the face of huge demand and soaring profits.
The flooding occurred at a mine in Tiandong county in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the southwest on Monday when 57 miners were working underground. Twenty-one escaped or were rescued.
Rescuers had recovered seven bodies by Tuesday night, but had yet to determine the location of the 29, the official Xinhua news agency said.
"(We) cannot say there is no chance of them being found alive, but the task ahead is extremely arduous and difficult," Xinhua quoted Huang Yi, spokesman for the State Work Safety Administration, as saying.
Xinhua said on Tuesday that rescuers had established contact with 12 of the 36 trapped miners and had tried to send them water and porridge.
Its Wednesday report did not say if the seven who died were among the 12.
Huang, the work safety spokesman, said rescuers had to drain 4,000 cubic metres of water near a "working face" 446 metres (1,460 feet) underground.
A total of 3,786 Chinese coal miners died in gas blasts, flooding and other accidents in 2007, down 20 percent from 2006.
Officials have said that China, undergoing rapid industrialisation, may need another decade before there is a drastic fall in mine and other industrial deaths.
Last Mod: 23 Temmuz 2008, 11:30