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Last Updated: Monday, 22 November, 2004, 08:37 GMT
Dozens dead in China mine fire
Rescuers carry an injured man out of a mine in Shahe, Hebei province
China's mining industry has a grim safety record
A fire at an iron ore mine in northern China has killed 57 workers while three more are still missing, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Rescue efforts began after the fire broke out on Saturday at a private mine in Shahe city, Hebei province. Another 46 miners, trapped as the fire spread, were now free, Xinhua said.

Chinese mines have a poor safety record and are among the most dangerous in the world. Last month, some 120 miners died in a gas blast in Henan province.

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the blaze.

One early theory is that an electric cable caught fire in one of the mines.

Official figures show that 4,153 people died in mining accidents in China in the first three quarters of this year - a figure 13% lower than last year.

But correspondents say the total may be higher, since some deaths go unreported.

These often occur in illegal, unregulated mines, which have mushroomed as China's industrial revolution drives the country's huge demand for coal.

Rescuers continue a difficult search for survivors

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