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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 06:09 GMT 07:09 UK
Blast hits China mine
Chinese miner
Chinese mines have a terrible safety record

A gas explosion at a mine in eastern China has killed at least 63 miners and another 23 are missing and feared dead.

There were 113 people in the state-registered Luling mine, near the city of Hefei in Anhui province, 950km (600 miles) south of Beijing, when the blast hit at 1613 (0813 GMT) on Tuesday.

So far 27 people have been rescued from the site of the accident, 10 of whom are in hospital.

Rescue work is ongoing but a mine official told the news agency AFP there was little hope for the remaining miners, who are 590 metres (1,950 feet) underground. "The chances of their survival are not very good," he said.

China's mines have the world's worst record for work safety, with Beijing's work safety bureau reporting that at least 4,500 fatalities occurred in coal mines last year, although unofficial estimates put the figure as high as 10,000.

Anxious relatives of the miners caught in Tuesday's blast were reported to be waiting at the gate of the mine for news.

The cause of the accident is being investigated. Explosions are common in China's mining industry, due to poor ventilation which fails to clear natural gas which seeps from coal seams.

Deficient safety equipment and lack of fire-fighting apparatus compound the dangers.

Many such incidents occurred in privately owned mines which lack operating licences and adequate safety equipment.

China relies heavily on the coal industry for its energy needs.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"Hopes for finding anymore survivors below ground are fading rapidly"

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04 Jul 02  |  Asia-Pacific
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30 May 02  |  Asia-Pacific
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20 Nov 01  |  Asia-Pacific
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