Coal mine explosion kills 17, traps 52 in Shanxi
Seventeen miners were confirmed dead and more than 50 were trapped underground after a powerful gas explosion at a coal mine in northern China.
The blast occurred around noon on Saturday at the Xishui colliery in Pinglu, a district in the city of Shuozhou in Shanxi province.
Shanxi provincial governor Zhang Baoshun has arrived at the scene to direct rescue and carry out investigation work, Xinhua news agency said.
Police detained the four owners of the Xishui coal mine.
"In defiance of the order, however, mine owners have restarted production this year," said the official.
The other coal mine, Kangjiayao, that fell the victim of Saturday's explosion, is a normal mine with governmental approval for production.
The provincial government has ordered the suspension of production in mines
that fail to meet safety measures.
In China, more than 6,000 miners died in accidents last year.
On Friday, 19 coal miners were confirmed dead after an explosion the day before at the Sulongsi mine in Fengjie county of southwestern Chongqing municipality.
In the worst mining accident in China's recent history, 214 miners were killed after a gas blast on February 14 at the Sunjiawan pit in Fuxin city in northeastern Liaoning province.
Earlier this month, Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to spend 3 billion yuan (US$362 million) on a safety overhaul of state-owned coal mines, saying officials must learn "a bitter lesson" from the heavy human losses.
"We must have a strong sense of responsibility to the people and truly make coal mining safer," said Wen in a work report to the country's top legislature, the National People's Congress.
In an attempt to tackle the industry's appalling safety record, the State Development and Reform Commission said 11 ministries and institutes under the central government have established a coordination office to oversee safety assessments for mines across China.
But China's economic boom has fueled a heavy demand for energy and the country's mines work well over capacity as coal prices have sky-rocketed.
Crucial parts of the country are facing power shortages exacerbated by 20 years of robust economic growth.