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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 October, 2004, 06:26 GMT 07:26 UK
China mine death toll passes 120
Rescue workers at the mine site 22/10/04
Rescue workers are losing hope of finding survivors
The death toll from last week's gas explosion at a Chinese coal mine has risen to 122, Xinhua news agency said.

Rescue workers are still searching for a further 26 people at the Daping mine in Henan province, but officials fear they are no longer alive.

The revised toll makes the accident the most deadly of its kind since 2000.

China's coal mines are among the world's most dangerous. More than 4,000 miners' lives have been lost so far this year.

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
Rescue operations have been hindered by a high concentration of gas in the air and debris from the collapsed shaft, the official Xinhua news agency has reported.

President Hu Jintao has called for answers after this latest tragedy, and ordered local officials to "spare no effort" to find the missing miners.

Scant hope

More than 400 people were working underground at the Daping mine near Xinmi when the blast happened, spewing out toxic gas and causing part of the mine's roof to collapse.

Official figures released last week showed that 4,153 people had 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.

Mines which are shut down because of poor safety records quickly reopen, our correspondent says.

The accident is now the most costly in terms of human life since 162 people died in a mine blast in Guizhou in 2000.

Rescuers continue a difficult search for survivors

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