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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 05:15 GMT 06:15 UK
China mine blast leaves many dead
Miners wait for news of colleagues, Daping, 21/10/04
Survivors waited anxiously for news
A gas explosion at a coal mine in central China has killed at least 62 people and left 86 others missing.

It is one of the worst mine accidents in recent years, and officials said the chances of the finding anyone still alive were slim.

Thousands die in China's poorly regulated mines each year, despite government promises to improve safety.

A BBC correspondent says such is the demand for coal that dangerous mines which are shut down quickly reopen.

More than 400 people were working in the Daping Mine in the city of Xinmi, Henan province, when the explosion happened late on Wednesday.

China's economic boom needs more and more power
Coal production rising by more than 15% a year
Government crackdown on illegal and worst-run mines
Even so, more than 4,000 people killed in mining accidents so far this year
More than 200 people escaped but 60 miners were confirmed dead, and rescuers were searching for survivors, Xinhua news agency reported.

But Sun Huashan, deputy administrator of the State Administration of Work Safety, said their chances for survival were "rather slim".

The bureau supervising Henan coal mine safety was also pessimistic.

"The situation is very tough in the mine, the gas is very dense, and in such conditions, it's hard to survive," an official at the bureau told the French news agency AFP.

Official figures released on Thursday showed 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's.

However, the BBC's correspondent in Shanghai, Francis Markus, says 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.

Dangers are compounded by a lack of investment for security in the state-owned mines, our correspondent says.

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