A mine blast in China’s central Henan province has killed 26 miners and left another 11 trapped underground.
State media said the coal mine had been hit by a “sudden coal and gas outburst” which unleashed tonnes of coal dust.
The national work safety agency said the explosion occurred as miners were drilling a hole to release pressure from a gas build-up as part of efforts to decrease the risk of blasts.
As rescue efforts are underway, a rescue official told the China News Service it could take four days to reach the men and there was little chance they would be found alive.
The Deputy Director of the rescue operation, Du Bo said there is not much of a chance that the 11 trapped miners could have survived and it will take three to four days to find them.
More than 70 rescuers are battling dangerous levels of gas and the risk of falling rocks as they work to free the trapped miners.
The gas concentration inside the Yuzhou pit, which is owned by Pingyu Coal & Electric Co Ltd, is reported to have been at 40%, which is 40 times higher than normal acceptable levels.
Meanwhile, relatives of the dead and missing miners have criticised the safety standards at the mine.
“This place is not even safe, they started operations even before it was ready,” said one mother of a missing miner.
Despite the central government making improving conditions in the country’s 25,000 coal mines a priority, and the number of deaths falling from nearly 7,000 in 2002 to 2,631 last year, China’s mining industry remain the most dangerous in the world.
China has been criticised for employing in mines migrant workers with limited training due to its heavy reliance on mining.