0420 GMT January 18, 2020
The deadly accident occurred on Wednesday night when 51 workers were busy working underground at a colliery in the city of Dengfeng in the eastern province of Henan, state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Thursday.
The report added that 31 workers managed to wrestle themselves free from under the fallen debris and climb to safety while seven others were still trapped underground.
According to China’s Xinhua news agency, miners were carrying out maintenance work when the roof came down, triggering the outburst of gas.
It was not clear whether the five victims died because of the collapse or gas density.
Deadly accidents are fairly common at industrial sites in China, particularly in the mining sector, which has gained a bad reputation for its poor safety regulations.
In December 2016, two separate colliery explosions in Inner Mongolia and the northeastern province of Heilongjiang claimed the lives of nearly 60 people. Two other coal mine blasts, in October and September last year, killed 33 and 18 people in the southwestern municipality of Chongqing and the northwestern Ningxia region, respectively.
China, the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, is struggling to pass strict safety regulations in the mining sector.
Back in early December, Song Yuanming, the deputy director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, warned that collieries should not operate beyond capacity and their managers should not stipulate overtime work, otherwise mines would become prone to accidents.
According to official figures, the annual death from mine accidents has fallen significantly in the past decade to fewer than 1,000 a year. However, some rights groups cast doubts on the stats, saying the actual figures are quite higher.