Hope of finding alive the 19 coal miners that have been trapped underground since late Wednesday after a gas explosion and raging fire in a mine in northeastern China, are quickly fading.
According to the state-run broadcaster CCTV, there were 52 miners working at the time of the explosion, 33 of which managed to escape.
But current levels of carbon monoxide and high temperatures due to the ongoing blaze are likely to make it impossible for the trapped miners to survive.
“Normal concentration of carbon monoxide (CO) should not go higher than 24ppm (parts per million), and currently the CO concentration is 14,650 ppm, reaching a level that people can suffocate to death with just one breath,” the spokesman of the rescue and command office, Zhang Qinxiang, was quoted as saying.
The blast site remained on fire on Thursday and the temperature inside the mine “could have reached 1,000 degrees” Celsius (over 1,600 Fahrenheit), he said.
Although the toll from accidents has fallen this year, China’s coal mines continue to be among the deadliest in the world because of poor safety and the rush to feed energy demand from the world’s second-largest economy.
It is estimated that more than 3,000 workers die in Chinese mines every year, mostly at coal operations.