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Wednesday, 9 May, 2001, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
54 feared dead in China mine blast
China map
Up to 54 miners are feared dead after a gas explosion ripped through a coal mine in north-eastern China, an official at the mine said.

The explosion occurred at the Lanshan Coal Mine in the town of Hegang, in Heilongjiang province at around 0100 (1700 GMT) on Tuesday.

Mine - generic
Most mines have poor communication and safety equipment
Nine workers have been confirmed dead, and another 45 are missing, with a raging fire blocking any possible rescue attempt.

A rescue official on the scene said hopes for their survival were dim.

"We have to put out the fire first. All the rescue efforts are focused on it at this moment," Mr Dai said.

Deadly business

China's coal mines are the world's deadliest, with thousands of deaths each year in fires, cave-ins and explosions often blamed on inadequate ventilation and safety equipment.

More than 4,800 deaths were reported last year, and still more fatalities may have been concealed by mine operators.

The government has been trying to shut down hundreds of small, unlicensed mines that operate without even basic safety equipment.

The Lanshan mine is government-owned but privately operated, according to Mr Dai.

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See also:

28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's deadly mining industry
07 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
China mine blast death toll rises
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's record of neglect
02 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Porridge lifeline for trapped miners
19 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese mine scam gang face death
22 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese mine blast kills 40
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