China mine blast death toll hits 42; 37 trapped–13 Chinese gold miners also killed in Henan province

BEIJING — The death toll from an explosion at an illegal coal mine in central China rose to 42 Wednesday with another 37 men still trapped with little hope for survival. Elsewhere in the same province, Henan, 13 workers were killed in gold mine fire sparked by the severing of electrical wires in a cave-in, the Xinhua News Agency reported Wednesday. Six of the 12 miners working underground at the time of the accident escaped to safety, but seven members of a rescue team were later trapped by the fire and also died, Xinhua said. The accident Tuesday evening came hours after the explosion at the illegal coal mine in Henan where 93 men had been working underground. A statement on the State Administration of Work Safety’s Web site did not give a reason for the pre-dawn explosion. It said 14 miners fled to safety. Two local officials — Qi Tongyan and Zhang Xizhi — were dismissed because the mine was found to be operating illegally, Xinhua said. The mine’s owners were placed under police surveillance and the company’s bank accounts frozen. The Xinhua No. 4 pit was undergoing an overhaul and had not been allowed by the government of Pingdingshan city to resume production, said a local Communist Party spokesman, according to Xinhua. Pingdingshan authorities ordered all of the city’s 157 coal mines to suspend production for a safety overhaul. Calls to the local government and mine operators rang unanswered Wednesday. China’s mines remain the world’s deadliest, although the closing of many small, dangerous mines has halved the average number of miners killed to about six a day in the first half of this year. Most accidents are blamed on failures to follow safety rules, including a lack of required ventilation or fire control equipment.

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