Beijing (AFP) - Eight people were found alive in a Chinese gypsum mine Wednesday, state media said, five days after it collapsed in an accident that reportedly prompted its owner to commit suicide.
The mine, in the eastern province of Shandong, caved in on Friday while 29 people were working underground.
One miner was killed and 11 escaped or were rescued soon after, leaving 17 trapped in the shaft, said previous Chinese media reports.
It was the latest deadly accident in a country where safety rules are often flouted to cut costs.
But signs of life were detected by monitoring machines and rescuers were in contact with eight survivors, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Plans are being made to bring them to the surface, state broadcaster China Central Television reported.
The mine owner drowned himself at the scene on Sunday while he was helping in rescue efforts, Xinhua reported previously.
The cause of the collapse is under investigation, but industrial safety regulations are often flouted in China and corruption enables bosses to pursue profits at the cost of worker safety.
Four officials in Pingyi, where the mine is located, including the county's party chief and head of government, were removed from their posts on Tuesday in the wake of the accident.
The gypsum pit and other mines in its vicinity were ordered to stop production in October by local authorities because of a risk of sinkholes, but it kept operating secretly, the Beijing Times reported earlier.
Accidents linked to lax industrial safety enforcement have seen hundreds of people killed in China this year, including this month's landslide in the southern commercial hub of Shenzhen and chemical blasts in the industrial city of Tianjin in August.
China is the world's largest coal producer and official data showed colliery accidents killed 931 people last year.
The government says the number of fatalities is declining, but some rights groups argue the actual figures are significantly higher due to under-reporting.