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Henan coal mine death toll rises to 18
( 2003-11-24 21:14) (Xinhua)

Four more bodies were recovered Monday afternoon from a coal mine which was hit by a gas explosion last Saturday near Ruzhou city, in central China's Henan province, bringing the death toll to 18.

Five underground workers are still missing.

The explosion took place at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Sundian Coal Mine in Xiaotun Town, which is under the jurisdiction of Ruzhou city, when 57 miners were working underground, according to the rescue command office.

Four rescue teams immediately rushed to the site, under the direction of Li Keqiang, secretary of the provincial committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and Li Chengyu, provincial governor of Henan.

It is learned that the owner of the mine has since fled.

The coal mine was set up in 1984, with legal production permits, and it had an annual production capacity of 90,000 tons.

Following the accident, the city closed all the coal mines in the vicinity pending safety checks.

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