Page last updated at 06:34 GMT, Saturday, 18 April 2009 07:34 UK

China mine blast leaves 18 dead


At least 18 people have died in a blast at a warehouse storing explosives and detonators at a coal mine in China.

The explosion was so powerful that it completely destroyed the three-storey warehouse at the mine in Hunan province in central China.

Police are searching for the owners and investigating whether the explosives were bought and stored illegally.

At least 3,200 people died in China's coal mines last year, making them the deadliest in the world.

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

Analysts estimate the figure to be much higher.

The central government has closed down a number of illegal and smaller coal mines in recent years to reduce the number of accidents, the BBC's Michael Bristow in Beijing says.

But, he adds, the policies of the government to improve safety are not always enforced at local levels - and accidents like this one continue to happen.

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