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Death toll rises to 59 in Shanxi coal mine blast
Updated: 2005-03-20 20:17

Some 59 bodies have been found after a deadly coalmine blast in north China's Shanxi Province by 5:00 p.m. Sunday.

Rescuers are searching for ten miners still trapped underground,according to sources with the rescue headquarters.

The blast occurred around noon on Saturday at the Xishui colliery in Pinglu, a district in the city of Shuozhou in Shanxi province.

An explosion at the Xishui coal mine in Shuozhou, Shanxi Province, has killed 17 miners and trapped over 50 workers underground on March 19, 2005. [Xinhua]
An explosion at the Xishui coal mine in Shuozhou, Shanxi Province, has killed 17 miners and trapped over 50 workers underground on March 19, 2005. [Xinhua] 
Forty-nine miners were working in the shaft where the explosion occurred and 22 others were also working at the nearby Kangjiayao mine when the blast caused a wall to collapse, it said, adding that two people have been rescued.

President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have demanded relevant departments try their best to save the trapped and instructed rescuers to pay attention to their own safety. Theyalso mentioned to offer appropriate comfort for victims' families.

Li Yizhong, director of the General Administration of Work Safety (GAWS), and Zhao Tiechui, director of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety under the GAWS, have arrived at Shuozhou earlier Sunday morning to direct the rescue operation.

The authorities said the Xishui colliery has an annual coal production of 150,000 tons.

Police detained the four owners of the Xishui coal mine.

Built in 1993, Xishui Mine is licensed with an annual output of 150,000 tons of coal. But the mine was ordered to suspend production after safety problems last November, said an official with the provincial supervision office of coal mine production.

"In defiance of the order, however, mine owners have restarted production this year," said the official.

Relatives of a victim in a coal mine blast in Shuozhou, North China's Shanxi Province weeps March 19, 2005. [newsphoto]

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.

Shanxi province is China's leading coal producing area and its government published regulations earlier this month requiring coal mine officials to carry out regular underground inspections at specified intervals.

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.

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