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Flood traps 69 Chinese miners

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BEIJING, China (Reuters) -- Sixty-nine miners have been trapped in a flooded central Chinese coal mine operating above its design capacity, state media reported on Monday.

Rescuers pumped out water and drilled holes to provide oxygen to the miners who were swamped after a flash flood raced through an old shaft about 200 km (125 miles) west of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province.

The miners have been trapped since Sunday morning. Thirty-three people had managed to escape the state-owned mine, operated by Zhijian Mining, Xinhua news agency said.

"The rescue operation is going on in an orderly way and the most important task is to try every effort to pump water for the time being," it said, quoting a rescue official.

China's coal industry is the world's deadliest, killing an average of 13 people a day last year. Most of the deaths occur in private unregulated mines.

The Zhijian mine, which was founded in 1958 during the Great Leap forward, has a designed annual production capacity of 210,000 tonnes, but actually produces 300,000 tonnes every year, Xinhua said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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