03/15/2005, 00.00
CHINA

Mine explosion in northern China kills 16

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Sixteen miners trapped after a coal mine gas explosion in northeast China were found dead on Tuesday, Xinhua news agency reported, the latest in a series of disasters in the world's deadliest mining industry. One miner had been rescued and two were still missing, it said.

The accident happened on Tuesday at a mine in Qitaihe, Heilongjiang province.

"The rescue operation is still going on, and the cause of the explosion is under investigation," Xinhua said.

There was no immediate word on the fate of six workers trapped 130 metres (430 ft) underground after a mudflow hit a coal mine in the southern province of Hunan on Sunday.

"The trapped workers have still hopes of survival, though the oxygen was estimated to support them more than 10 hours," said Yan Yinchu, vice director of the local working security monitoring bureau.

China has the most dangerous mines in the world. Official figures show more than 6,000 miners died in accidents last year. Independent estimates say the real figure could be as high as 20,000.

Beijing earlier announced it will modify existing laws on coal production to promote a healthier development of the country's coal industry.

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