2008-06-26 10:33:46 GMT 2008-06-26 18:33:46 (Beijing Time) Xinhua English
FANCHANG, Anhui, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Rescue operations were halted at a collapsed iron mine in the eastern province of Anhui as fresh cave-ins and landslides occurred amid heavy rain, local authorities said on Thursday.
The first cave-in took place at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the mine in Fanchang, a county about two hours' drive from Hefei, the provincial capital, trapping at least 12 farmers.
All the victims were local residents, according to Cheng Chuanru, chief of the Anhui Provincial Bureau of Work Safety.
The mine is owned by Taochong Mining Co., a division of Ma'anshan Steel Group, a major steel maker. The caved-in zone had been abandoned by the company, but local residents often conducted illegal mining activities, said Cheng.
Rescuers said mountains around the site were in an unstable condition.
"The fact that heavy machinery needed in rescue operations can not be brought in, and the threat of cave-in created disasters, forced rescue operations to be postponed," said an official in charge of the effort.
According to Cheng, rescuers had been divided into two groups: one is responsible for monitoring changes in the ground surface, while the other is assigned to descend into a tunnel to search for signs of life.