Mine gas explosion kills 60 in Shanxi
A gas explosion ripped through a coal mine in Shanxi Province on Saturday afternoon, killing at least 60 miners, with 9 others still unaccounted for.
The deadly blast occurred at 12:20 pm at the Xishui Coal Mine in Shuozhou, a city in the major coal-producing region in the north of the country.
Fifty three miners were working in the pit when the blast happened -- 50 were buried underground while the others managed to escape.
The strong explosion also caused the collapse of the neighbouring Kangjiayao mine, where 19 miners were trapped.
Rescue teams have recovered the bodies of 41 victims at Xishui and another 19 at Kangjiayao, the Shuozhou Administrative Bureau of Work Safety said yesterday.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have demanded the relevant departments try their best to save the trapped workers, and instructed rescuers to pay attention to their own safety.
They also said they will offer comfort to the families of the victims.
On Saturday, local police detained four people of the Xishui colliery for disregarding an order last November to suspend production due to safety problems.
The Xishui mine operators, who contracted the mine from the township and lured by potential profits amid a nationwide power shortage, restarted the unsafe operation this year, a decision that led to tragedy, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
But the neighbouring colliery, Kangjiayao, whose annual output is also 150,000 tons, was operating with government approval.
Saturday's explosion came just two days after a blast in a coal mine in Fengjie County, Chongqing, which killed 19 miners.
Li Yizhong, minister of the General Administration of Work Safety, arrived at the Xishui colliery yesterday morning to direct rescue and investigation work.
The administration was lifted to ministry level status last month in order to enhance the agency's power to improve work safety in the country's accident-plagued coal industry.
It is Li's second trip to the province in two weeks, after taking up the ministerial post in late February.
His first trip was on March 10 after a gas explosion at the Xiangyuangou Coal Mine in Jiaocheng County, which killed 28 miners.
China's miners have experienced a string of disasters since late last year, including a gas explosion that killed 148 in Henan Province on October 20, a blast in a coal mine in Shaanxi Province that killed 166 workers on November 28, and the worst in half a century that killed 214 people on February 14 in Liaoning Province.
Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier this month the central government will spend 3 billion yuan (US$363 million) this year in upgrading safety measures at coal mines to "truly make coal mining safer."