11/02/2005, 00.00
CHINA

Shanxi: 17 killed in coal mine blast

The force of the explosion hit a neighbouring mine too. "Corruption is the true cause of mine accidents," charges the director of the director of the State Administration of Work Safety.

Yuanping (AsiaNews/Agencies) – An explosion in an illegal coal mine in Shanxi (northern China) killed 17 people on Monday. This was confirmed today by national media and the State Administration of Work Safety.

The blast went off in the Fenhemao coal mine in Changlianggou town, killing 13 miners working inside on the spot. The management of the mine sent six rescuers underground and two of them died of suffocation. The explosion damaged a neighbouring mine, killing two people there.

One survivor who was standing at the mine's entrance said the powerful explosion knocked him to the ground and created a large cloud of smoke.

Fenhemao is a small village-run mine whose mining permits have been withdrawn, according to official sources from the province's coal mine safety supervision bureau. The Shanxi website said the mine had been ordered to shut down between 1 October and 31 December because it had not met safety standards.

According to Xinhua, local authorities visited the area on the morning the disaster took place to make sure production was stopped, however the miners said that the mine "only closed on these occasions". Han Buhong, the owner, fled.

Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, said the government was pressing ahead with its battle against rampant corruption within the mining sector. According to Li, "investigations into several large accidents this year made us realise that corruption and collaboration between officials and businessmen are the deep-rooted cause of frequent accidents". Political protection allows mine owners to save of safety installations and to force workers to work inhuman hours".

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