China mine blast kills 21

October 17th, 2010 - 3:16 pm ICT by BNO News  

YUZHOU, CHINA (BNO NEWS) — A gas explosion at a coal mine in central China on early Saturday morning killed at least 21 people and left more than a dozen others trapped, the government said.

The explosion happened at around 6 a.m. local time at a Pingyu Coal & Electric Co. Ltd.-owned coal mine in Yuzhou City of central China’s Henan Province. A total of 276 miners were working underground at the time of the accident.

All but 37 of the miners were able to escape safely after the accident, according to the country’s State Administration of Work Safety. “A total of 37 people were trapped,” it said in a statement.

A search and rescue team that entered the mine after the explosion was able to recover 20 bodies from the mine, while 17 others remain trapped inside the mine. Their condition was not immediately clear, but rescue operations are being hampered by a high concentration of gas underground.

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, an initial investigation showed that more than 2,500 tonnes of coal dust was in the pit after the explosion. Du said the accident occurred when workers were taking measures to prevent a gas explosion.

Luo Lin, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, and Zhao Tiechui, head of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, are on their way to the site.

Safety conditions at mines in China have significantly improved in recent years, but they remain among the world’s most dangerous with around 2,600 fatalities in 2009 alone.

Saturday’s accident was not the first accident at the mine, which was the scene of an explosion on August 1, 2008 that left 23 workers dead.

On October 8, nine people were killed, including a rescue team, when they suffocated to death in a disused air shaft at a lead zinc ore mine in central China.

According to mining officials, two workers in charge of equipment removal at the mine in Hunan Province were overcome by a lack of oxygen. An eight-member rescue team was soon sent in to help but all died from a lack of oxygen. Another rescue team eventually found one of the two workers alive.

In November 2009, 104 miners were killed after several explosions at a coal mine in China’s Heilongjiang province.

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