17 dead, dozens missing in Shanxi mine blast

The incident was caused by an accumulation of gas. Rescuers are still 500 metres away from the site of the blast. Since the beginning of the year, Chinese mines have claimed 3,284 victims.


Xinzhou (AsiaNews/Agencies) ┬ľAt least 17 miners were killed and another 30 are missing after an explosion in a coal mine in northern China yesterday. The latest incident to hit the country's mining industry, one of the most dangerous in the world, was reported today by Xinhua.

The news agency said the accident was caused by the accumulation of gas in the tunnels of a mine in Jiaojizhai in Shanxi Province. The mine, which belongs to the Shanxi Tongmei group, has been known for some time due to the high concentration of gas in its tunnels.

The blast occurred during a work break, when miners had stopped working due to a power failure.

Until last night, 17 corpses had been extracted. But rescuers are hindered by the presence of gas and cave-ins. The head of the General Administration of Work Safety, Li Yizhong, went to the site of the accident.

Li Yanjun, head of the rescue team of Datong Coal Mine Group, said rescuers were still 500 metres away from the explosion site because the blast had caused a cave-in that made it difficult to work inside the mine.

China's mining industry is one of the most dangerous anywhere in the world. The country is seeking in all possible ways to meet its increasing demands for energy to feed its economic growth. It depends largely on coal, which accounts for nearly 70% of its energy sources.

In the race for profit encouraged by production goals, safety norms are often ignored and production is often pushed beyond feasible limits.

A recent government campaign that pledged to take tough action against dangerous repositories has proved to be practically futile. With the complicity of local officials, the owners of mines shut down by the authorities reopen illegally.

In the first nine months of 2006, 23% less deaths were reported than in 2005. But anyhow, there were more than 2,000 accidents that claimed 3,284 victims.

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