BEIJING, CHINA — Search and rescue efforts at a coal mine in northern China’s Inner Mongolia region have been put on hold after a massive landslide, state media reported Thursday, following a collapse that killed at least two people and trapped dozens.
More than 900 rescue workers have been dispatched to the site following the collapse of the open-pit mine, located in the remote Alxa Left Banner, official news agency Xinhua said.
Two people were confirmed dead, with six injured and 53 still missing, in the disaster, which took place around 1 pm (0500 GMT) on Wednesday.
Efforts to save those trapped have been impeded by a “massive landslide” that took place early Wednesday evening, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Rescue efforts were still on hold as of 6 am Thursday, it added.
“At 6:44 pm (on Wednesday), another large landslide occurred, and the rescue was forced to be interrupted,” Wei Zhiguo, leader of the rescue efforts, told state broadcaster CCTV.
“The rescue work is being carried out in an orderly and tense manner.”
The incident affected a “wide area” of the mine, which is operated by the Xinjing Coal Mining Company, CCTV reported earlier.
“A number of working staff and vehicles have been buried,” it said.
It was not clear what caused the collapse, and calls to the Xinjing Coal Mining Company by AFP went unanswered on Thursday.
A video posted on social media by a coal truck driver appeared to show rocks cascading down a slope, kicking up clouds of brown dust that engulfed several vehicles.
“The whole slope has collapsed… How many people must be dead from that?” a male voice can be heard saying in the background.
“If I’d lined up over there today, I’d have died in there, too.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping has instructed authorities to “do everything possible to search for and rescue the missing people”, CCTV reported.
Located in China’s arid north, the Alxa League — which includes the Alxa Left Banner — is a sparsely populated region whose economy runs largely on mining and other extractive industries.
Mine safety in China has improved in recent decades, as has media coverage of major incidents, many of which were once overlooked.
But accidents still occur frequently in an industry where safety protocols are often lax, especially at the most rudimentary sites.
Some 40 people were working underground when a gold mine in the northwestern Xinjiang region collapsed in December.
In 2021, 20 miners were rescued from a flooded coal mine in northern Shanxi province while two others died.