Scores killed in gas explosion at Chinese mine

A gas explosion killed 42 miners in a Chinese mine on Saturday and 66 remain trapped hundreds of metres underground after the latest accident to hit the world’s deadliest mining industry, state media said.

The blast ripped through the mine at about 2.30am when there were 528 people at work, but more than 400 have now got out safely, the official Xinhua news agency said, citing rescue team spokesperson Zhang Jinguang.

The blast was so violent it shook the surrounding area. Buildings near the mine mouth have partially collapsed, and some survivors were knocked unconscious temporarily.

”I passed out for a while. I found I was shrouded by heavy smoke, when I regained consciousness. I groped my way out in the dark,” 27 year-old electrician Wang Xingang told Xinhua.

Wang is in hospital with 28 others who escaped the mine, said Pan Xiaowen, deputy director of the Hegang Mining Bureau Hospital. Six of them are seriously injured.

The Xinxing mine is in Heilongjiang province, which borders Russia. It is owned by the Heilongjiang Longmei Mining Holding Group, and produces 12-million tonnes of coal a year, Xinhua said, making it larger than most mines where accidents occur.

Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang is heading to the site of the accident, and Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have given instructions about the rescue work, a sign of official concern about the latest in a long string of disasters.

Rescue teams are on site, with 156 people hunting for the missing miners, state television said.

Lax safety standards and strong demand for resources have made China’s mines the deadliest in the world, despite a government drive to clamp down on the tiny, unsafe operations where most accidents occur.

More than 3 000 people died in mine floods, explosions, collapses and other accidents in 2008. – Reuters

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