5 dead, 48 missing after large Chinese open-pit mine collapses on workers
Rescuers were digging through tons of earth and rubble for 48 workers missing after a landslide buried an open-pit mine in northern China.
At least five are dead at Xinjing Coal Mining-operated site in Alxa League in the Inner Mongolia region.
The collapse left behind a pile of debris roughly 500m across and estimated 80m high.
Hundreds of fire rescue personnel, 60 fire engines, and six rescue dogs were pressed into action on Thursday to continue the search for trapped miners.
The National Health Commission said the injured were rescued and rushed to hospital. Fifteen ambulances and 45 medical staff are helping with the search operation, it said.
"I had just started work at 1.15 in the afternoon when I realised that rocks were falling from the mountain," a hospitalizsed miner told state broadcaster CCTV.
"I saw that the situation was getting more and more serious, and an evacuation was organised, but it was too late, the mountain just collapsed."
Videos shared by the state broadcaster showed rescue workers in orange overalls dwarfed by a massive wall of debris, while excavators tried to clear the rubble.
Chinese president Xi Jinping has called for "all-out efforts in search and rescue" and for "ensuring the safety of people's lives and property and maintaining overall social stability".
“We must make every possible effort to rescue the missing persons and treat the injured.”
The rescue operation, however, was suspended for several hours on Wednesday after a landslide hit the facility in the evening following the collapse.
Chinese premier Li Keqiang demanded an investigation into the cause of the collapse.
The Xinjing Coal Industry, which was running the mine, was reportedly fined last year for multiple safety violations that ranged from insecure access routes to the mining surface to unsafe storage of volatile materials, according to the Associated Press.
China relies heavily on coal as its major source of energy but the mines are among the world's deadliest due to the lack of safety measures despite government orders. Inner Mongolia is a key region for mining coal and China has been trying to boost its output over the past year.
Most deaths in the mining business are attributed to explosions or drownings when miners break into shafts that had been abandoned due to flooding.