11/23/2009, 00.00
CHINA
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Heilongjiang, 104 die in mine explosion. Police arrest relatives of victims

There are still four trapped miners inside the mine. Security forces have arrested a group of women who were protesting the lack of information. Personnel in civilian clothes prevent reporters from filming and carrying out interviews. Yesterday, another 11 die in a mine in Hunan.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The death toll has risen to 104 in the coal mine accident in Xinxing, in Heilongjiang Province, on the border between China and Russia. This was confirmed by official Chinese sources, who report four other miners still trapped in tunnels. Relatives of victims have waged battles with security forces, demanding explanations on the causes of the explosion. Yesterday, another accident at a mine in the southern province of Hunan caused 11 deaths.

The blast at Xinging coal mine, caused by the explosion of firedamp - a mixture of gas and air - occurred on 21 November at 2.30 local. At that time there were 528 employees working in the mine. Government officials in Beijing have reached the quarry, to establish any liability of managers. In 2009, the quarry produced more than three million tons of coal and is owned by the Heilongjiang Longmei Mining Holding Group.    

This morning, a dozen women, relatives of the victims staged a protest outside the entrance of the mine to denounce the lack of information. The group engaged in a scuffle with the police and security guards. "No official died - a woman screamed - all the victims were miners."

Police dragged a group of women to a complex inside the mine; others were forcibly loaded onto a white van. One of them was locked in a car and was taken away. The police were then deployed to defend the revenue of the quarry, to prevent the entry of "unwanted guests". Personnel in civilian clothes prevented journalists from interviewing the relatives and filming at the complex.  

China's mines remain the most dangerous in the world. In 2008 alone there were more than 3 thousand dead - according to official estimates - from accidents, explosions, floods and collapses. The government agency Coal Mine Safety reported that in the first six months of 2009 1175 people were killed, with a decrease of 18.4% over the previous year.

 

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