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Death toll in iron mine fire rises to 61
Updated: 2004-11-23 00:37

The death toll in Saturday's fire in five iron mines in Shahe City of Hebei Province has risen to 61 and rescuers are still searching for the missing, an official said Tuesday.

As of Tuesday morning, 61 miners were confirmed dead, 51 were alive and four were still missing, said Hu Chunxing, chief of the city information office.

Preliminary investigation shows that the fire was caused by the self-ignition of electric cables in one mine, and spread quickly to the four other mines which were all connected. Heavy smog soon trapped 116 miners.

Hu said the poor management of the mines made it difficult to get the accurate number of miners who were working when the fire broke out. The number was estimated at no less than 116.

The identification of more than 50 victims have so far been recognized and their families are on their way to the mines, said Hu.

The miners killed in the disaster, most of whom succumbed to suffocation, were either locals or from underdeveloped Guizhou Province in southwest China and Shaanxi Province in northwest China.

City government officials are busy with the aftermath and insurance companies have begun the work of compensation to some of the miners who had taken insurance policies.

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