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China says coal mining deaths up 21 pct
Updated: 2005-04-05 15:27

The number of deaths in China's accident-plagued coal mines surged by nearly 21 percent in the first three months of this year despite a national safety crackdown, the country's top industrial safety official said Tuesday.

Fires, cave-ins and other accidents killed 1,113 miners from January to March, up 20.8 percent over the same period in 2004, said Li Yizhong, the minister in charge of the State Administration for Work Safety.

"Since the fourth quarter of last year, several particularly serious accidents have occurred, arousing widespread concern of the public," Li said at a news conference.

In February, an underground explosion in China's northeast killed 214 coal miners in the country's deadliest reported mine accident since the start of communist rule in 1949. Another accident in March killed 72 coal miners in northern China.

China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with thousands of deaths a year blamed on lack of required equipment or indifference to safety rules. Communist leaders have promised repeatedly to tighten standards but accidents still kill an average of 16 miners a day.

Li said China's Cabinet and Communist Party leadership "have been placing great importance on issues regarding work safety."

The agency "has been cracking down on all kinds of illegal mining operations and rectifying mines that fail to meet work safety standards," he said.

Efforts to shut down dangerous mines have been complicated by the country's soaring demands for power to drive its booming economy.

The government has ordered emergency shipments of coal amid widespread blackouts, prompting mines to push their facilities beyond safe limits. Many smaller, unlicensed mines have reopened in response to the surging demand.

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