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26 killed in China coal mine blast

October 17, 2010 17:49 IST

With the recovery of five more bodies, the death toll in the gas explosion that hit a coal mine in China's central Henan province rose to 26 on Sunday while 11 others are still trapped underground.

Rescuers continue to battle thick coal dust as they attempt to reach the 11 missing but the gas leak has spread to most of the mine making it difficult for them. The miners are believed to have been trapped underground after a blast occurred yesterday in the mine situated in Yuzhou city of the province at 6 am local time, a spokesman for the rescue headquarters said.

A total of 276 miners were working underground when the accident happened and 239 escaped. More than 70 rescuers are working in shifts despite a high density of gas underground, which is hindering the operation. Earlier reports said 16 miners have been located, but rescuers must clear the coal dust from the shaft first. Ventilation has been resumed in the pit, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday night. An initial investigation showed that more than 2,500

tonnes of coal dust was in the pit after gas burst, said Du Bo, an engineer with one of the mine's parent companies.

Du said the accident occurred when workers were taking measures to prevent gas bursts. The same mine reported another gas and coal burst on Aug 1, 2008, which left 23 miners dead. Mine accidents have become very common in China following immense demand for coal to back up energy demand. China has recently announced new set of safety rules asking the mangers of the mines to accompany the miners but the accidents continued unabated.

China's mining industry is considered the most dangerous in the world, with more than 2,600 workers killed in accidents last year alone. More than 1,000 small, illegal coal mines were shut down this year as part of efforts to improve safety standards.

K J M Varma in Beijing
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