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Toll climbs in China mine blast

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Rescue workers prepare to go down the pit

At least 73 miners have been killed in an explosion at a coal mine in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi.

Rescue workers are at the scene in Gujiao city attempting to rescue dozens of miners who remain trapped.

More than 400 men were at work at the time of the explosion but most managed to escape, the state-run Xinhua news agency reports.

China has the world's deadliest mining industry, with 3,200 deaths reported last year.

Rescue workers said 113 miners were in hospital, with 21 being in a critical condition.

CHINA'S WORST MINE DISASTERS
Feb 1950: Yiluo mine, Henan province - 174 dead
May 1960: Laobaidong mine, Shanxi province - 684 dead
Sept 2000: Muchonggou mine, Guizhou province - 162 dead
Nov 2004: Chenjiashan mine, Shaanxi province - 166 dead
Feb 2005: Sunjiawan mine, Liaoning province - 210 dead
Nov 2005: Dongfeng mine, Heilongjiang - 171 dead
Aug 2007: Xintai City, Shandong province - 181 dead
Dec 2007: Rui Zhiyuan mine, Shanxi province - 105 dead

State-controlled China Central TV (CCTV) showed rescue crews entering an elevator to be lowered into the mine shaft while injured miners were taken into ambulances.

CCTV said about 100 rescuers were working to free the remaining trapped miners but a fire in the shaft was blocking their progress.

Some of the trapped miners had used mobile phones to call relatives.

Most of the injured were being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning, doctors in Gujiao told Xinhua.

Exposure to the gas, which is odourless and colourless, is potentially fatal.

'Safety improving'

The true figure of those killed in China's mines every year is believed to be far higher than official figures indicate, says the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Beijing, as many accidents go unreported.

Map

Illegal mining, official corruption and weak safety inspections lead to tens of thousands of accidents each year, our correspondent says.

China has said safety is improving, with the official death toll from coal mining accidents falling by 15% in 2008 compared with the previous year.

Xinhua also reported that the number of accidents had fallen by 19% to 413,700 last year.

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SEE ALSO
China mining toll 'falls' in 2008
29 Jan 09 |  Asia-Pacific
China coal 'true cost' at $250bn
27 Oct 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Men rescued from China coal mine
18 Nov 08 |  Asia-Pacific



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