35 Die in Chinese Coal Mine Blast
HONG KONG — Three days after one of China’s most senior leaders proclaimed coal mine safety to be a top priority for the government, a gas explosion at an unlicensed mine in central China killed at least 35 workers and trapped 44, the national work safety agency said Tuesday. The explosion rocked a coal pit in the city of Pingdingshan, in Henan Province, around 1 a.m. on Tuesday, a city spokesman told the official Chinese news agency Xinhua. The spokesman said 93 miners were working in the pit when the blast occurred and 14 managed to escape. He also said the mine had been under repair and had not been cleared to resume operations. On Saturday, in remarks reported by the news agency at a coal industry conference, deputy prime minister Zhang Dejiang called for numerous improvements in mine safety to prevent, in particular, gas explosions. An estimated 80 percent of the 16,000 mines operating in China are illegal, according to the State Administration of Work Safety. Government figures show that about 3,200 people died in mining accidents last year, a 15 percent decrease from 2007. In February, in the country’s deadliest coal mine accident in more than a year, at least 74 people died in a gas explosion, and 114 were hospitalized with carbon monoxide poisoning. The blast at the Tunlan Coal Mine in Shanxi Province, the coal mining heartland of China, also occurred just after midnight. In December 2007, a gas explosion in a mine in the city of Linfen, also in Shanxi, killed 105 miners, according to the work safety agency.
By MARK McDONALD