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Thursday, 17 January, 2002, 12:25 GMT
China's industrial accidents 'fall'
Rescue workers pull a survivor from the rubble of a factory explosion, January 2002
There have been several fireworks factory explosions
Despite a series of high profile coal mine disasters, the number of industrial accidents in China fell by a third last year, state media reported.

Mining accidents killed 5,395 people last year, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

That is a drop of 403 deaths from 2000, but means mining is still the most deadly industry in China.

This week alone more than 50 people have been killed in three separate mining accidents.

China's safety record was highlighted last November when 72 miners died in a spate of gas explosions in Shanxi province. It prompted a temporary halt to all mining work in the northern region.

The head of the State Administration of Work Safety, Zhang Baoming, who led the safety report, told the China Daily newspaper that the country still faced "an uphill battle".

Lethal workplaces

Many disasters take place in illegally-run mines, despite government orders to shut down tens of thousands of them.

Rescuers at a Chinese coal mine, 2001
Thousands of small mines are running illegally
The accuracy of the official safety figures is difficult to verify, but independent analysts say the real death toll from mining is about 10,000 a year.

Firework factories are another high-risk workplace.

No official death toll figures have been reported, but a string of explosions are known to have killed at least 100 people last year, including children.

Last week the eastern province of Jiangxi ordered its fireworks factories closed following a series of fatal accidents.

The government is expected to pass a law on firework production safety in June, Xinhua said.

And Mr Zhang said China would also aim this year to tighten the regulations for dangerous chemicals and coal mines.

According to Mr Zhang's report, 116,858 people died in accidents in the first 11 months of last year - but 81.5% of those were traffic accidents.

Mr Zhang said that was a 26.5% increase on 2000.

The United States, with less than a quarter of China's population, had 41,821 traffic deaths in 2000, according to the US Department of Transportation.

See also:

15 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Fifty dead in China mining disasters
10 Jan 02 | Business
Firework ban leaves 200,000 jobless
04 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
China confirms mine disaster
23 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
China reviews pit safety
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's record of neglect
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China's deadly mining industry
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