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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 06:01 GMT
China mine blast leaves 74 dead
Miners at mine in Tangshan
Rescuers are looking for at least 32 miners missing
A gas explosion at a Chinese coal mine has killed 74 miners and 32 are still missing, state media report.

The explosion ripped through the pit in the privately run colliery in Tangshan in the north of Hebei Province.

It was the third fatal accident in two weeks, making a mockery of repeated government vows to improve coal mine safety, a BBC correspondent reports.

China's mining industry is one of the most dangerous in the world, with more than 6,000 miners dying last year.

This latest accident is just the latest in a grim litany of disasters in China's coal mines, the BBC's Louisa Lim reports from Beijing.

China's government is struggling to clean up the mining industry, announcing repeated safety campaigns.

However, the booming economy has pushed up coal prices, putting mines under pressure to step up production, and mines often operate illegally.

This string of accidents highlights the powerlessness of the central leadership to improve matters, our correspondent says.

'Unregistered miners'

The explosion occurred on Wednesday at the Liuguantun mine near Tangshan City, 165km (100 miles) from Beijing

Management at the colliery is very poor and the official number of people registered as being in the mine at the time of the blast was not reliable, Xinhua news agency reports, quoting unnamed local authorities.

The formerly state-owned mine has an output of 150,000 tons of coal a year, according to state media.

Rescuers are still trying to reach 42 miners who have been trapped below ground since Friday after a flood at a mine in central Hunan province.

Divers have been dispatched and a microphone lowered into the shaft but there is no indication that the men are still alive.

The Sigou coal mine had been operating without a safety permit and mine officials fled the scene after the flooding.

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