Fukang (AsiaNews/SCMP) A gas blast in a coal mine in Shenlong, 38 km east of the city of Fukang (Xinjiang province) has killed 65 people with an additional 18 listed as missing, said officials with the State Administration of Work Safety. Only four people were found alive after the blast, they added.
Local and Work Safety authorities are still investigating possible causes for the disaster, but rescuers at the scene said the blast destroyed the mine's ventilation system and the density of gas at the site was six times higher than normal. It took rescue crews five hours to get the ventilation system working again.
A Fukang Work Safety Bureau official said that "[t]his region has not seen such a serious disaster for years."
The mine is privately run by the Fukang Shenlong Coal Mine Co and has an annual capacity of 600,000 tonnes.
Under national safety standards, it is rated as a Class B coal mine, meaning that it had good safety conditions.
Coal provides for 70 per cent of China's energy needs, but the country's mines are among the most dangerous in the world.
Official statistics released yesterday indicate that coal mine disasters have contributed more to mass deaths on the mainland than fires and traffic accidents.
According to government figures, work-related deaths reached 6,000 last year, but unofficial sources put the number at at least 20,000.
In the first four months of this year, the official death toll for mining accidents stood at 1,113, a 20 per cent increase over last year.
Incidents leading to structural mine damage rose 44 per cent this year over last.