13 confirmed dead in China mine flood: state media

BEIJING, July 23, 2010 (AFP) - Authorities have confirmed the deaths of 13 workers trapped in a flooded coal mine in northwest China at the weekend -- one of a spate of recent accidents to hit the sector, state media said Friday.

The last five bodies were pulled early Friday from the pit in the city of Jiuquan in Gansu province, Xinhua news agency reported, citing a spokesman for the rescue operation.

China's vast coal mining industry is notoriously accident-prone due to lax regulation, corruption and inefficiency as mines rush to meet soaring demand.

China relies on coal-generated power for about 70 percent of its electricity needs.

A total of 2,631 miners were killed in China last year, according to official figures, but independent labour groups say the actual figure could be much higher as many accidents are covered up to avoid costly mine shutdowns.

In March, a flood at the huge, unfinished Wangjialing mine in the industry's northern heartland of Shanxi left 153 workers trapped underground. A total of 115 were recovered alive, in what was seen as a rare successful rescue.

Yet despite numerous pledges after that accident and other big mining disasters, there is virtually no let-up in the regular reports of deadly mishaps.

Last weekend alone, more than 50 miners were killed in four separate accidents.