WORLD> Asia-Pacific
Indonesia mine blast kills at least 9
Updated: 2009-06-17 10:27

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- An explosion ripped through a coal mine in western Indonesia on Tuesday, killing at least nine people and burying 32 others who were feared dead, officials said.

Indonesia mine blast kills at least 9
Rescue workers evacuate a body after an explosion in a coal mining area in Sawahlunto village in Indonesia's West Sumatra province June 16, 2009. [Agencies]

Dozens of rescuers tried to reach the trapped men, but rock slides and a mix of gas and coal debris forced them to resurface after four hours of digging, district police Chief Yasman Esha in West Sumatra province said by phone from the scene.

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"We fear the miners are dead by now," Esha said.

Four bodies were recovered soon after the morning blast at the 300-foot (100-meter) -deep mine in Sawahlunto regency on Sumatra island, he said.

Health Ministry Crisis Center chief Rustam Pakaya said 14 miners were rescued, but five with severe burns died later in a hospital. Two others were in critical condition, he said.

Police were trying to determine what caused the blast. A preliminary investigation said it was triggered by leaking methane gas.

The mine, owned by a local company, is 560 miles (900 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Jakarta.

Indonesia has some of the world's largest coal deposits and is a major coal exporter.

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