UPDATE: 104 dead in China coal mine blast, 4 miners still missing

Relatives of miners who were killed in a gas explosion cry outside the entrance of Xinxing coal mine in Hegang in Heilongjiang province on Nov. 23. (Andy Wong/Associated Press)

The death toll from the latest mine disaster in China is now up to at least 104, and grieving family members on Monday demanded answers from officials. The official Xinhua news agency said four more miners are missing and feared dead. Roughly 500 miners were working underground on Saturday at the Xinxing coal mine in Hegang city in Heilongjiang province when a gas explosion occurred.

The death toll is the highest for China’s mining industry in two years.

The mine belongs to state-owned Heilongjiang Longmei Mining Holding Group.

On Monday at the gates of the company’s offices, family members demanded answers from the company. They were were later escorted by police and security into an office.

“Why haven’t they told us anything?” said Liu Shujiu, whose 38-year-old husband Zhang Shulai was among the victims. She broke down in tears as she sat in a chair.

“We had to hear from others at the mine,” she said.

A mine official, who would not give his name out of fear of government reprisal, admitted that the delay in giving families news about the accident was a mistake.

“In this, we were wrong,” said the official.

The latest blast highlights the safety problems in China’s mining industry. Through the first six months of the year, 1,175 people had died in mine accidents, although that was down more than 18 per cent from same period last year.

The Chinese government has shut down about 1,000 smaller mines, many of them illegal. That move has helped cut down on fatalities.



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