11/22/2004, 00.00
CHINA

49 killed in mine fire disaster, 11 reported missing

Beijing (AsiaNews/Ap) – At least 49 miners were confirmed dead and 11 missing following a massive blaze at a complex of iron mines in northern China, the government reported on Monday.

Rescuers managed to pull 46 miners to safety, the State Administration for Work Safety said in a report on its website. The bodies of the 49 were recovered.

The blaze broke out Saturday morning after an electronic cable caught fire inside a mine in Shahe, in northern China's Hebei province, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The fire spread quickly to five connected mines while thick smoke slowed rescue efforts.

Police have detained the mines' managers and frozen their bank accounts, the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper said.

Premier Wen Jiabao called for the miners to be saved "at any cost," it added.

China's mines are the world's most dangerous, with thousands of deaths reported every year due to fires, cave-ins and other disasters often blamed on indifference to safety rules or lack of required equipment.

Repeated government vows to do more to stop the carnage have so far had little effect.

Coal mines account for most of the fatalities, but accidents that claim dozens of lives at a time also are regularly reported in iron, tin and other mines.

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