China mine fire kills 16, while gas blast kills 1

BEIJING — A gas leak in a China coal mine killed at least one worker and trapped five more Saturday, just hours after a fire in a gold mine killed 16.

The gas leak happened Saturday morning at the mine in Shifang city in the southwestern province of Sichuan, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. The report said the leak at the mine run by Hongda Red Star Mining Co., Ltd. was the third gas leak at a China coal mine this week.

In a separate accident, a fire killed 16 at the Lingnan Gold Mine in Zhaoyuan city in the eastern province of Shandong. The fire initially trapped 50 miners, but the rest were rescued.

China Central Television footage Saturday showed one rescued miner, shirtless, covering his eyes with a towel as he and others walked out of an elevator at the mine shaft entrance.

An official who identified himself only by his surname Li said the fire was caused by an underground cable, and the owner of the mine was in police custody. Xinhua said 329 people were working in the mine when the fire started.

China has the world’s deadliest mining industry with more than 2,600 people killed in mine accidents last year. Those figures represent a drop from previous years as the government has moved to close down smaller, illegal mines.

This week 25 miners were killed in two separate accidents when lethal gas seeped into the mines where they were working. Nine workers were killed at a mine Monday in central Henan province, while 16 workers died Tuesday at a mine in southwestern Guizhou province.

Mining deaths jumped again in the first half of this year. Coal mine deaths through June were 1,261, up from 1,175 in the same period last year.

Earlier this month, a spokesman for the work safety administration told the China Daily newspaper the jump was caused in part by China’s recovery from the economic crisis.

Last month, Premier Wen Jiabao ordered mine managers and bosses to accompany workers down into mine shafts in a bid to improve safety.

However, the approach has failed to produce any impact. More than 100 miners have died in the past month. None of those killed were mine bosses or managers — a fact noted with unusual criticism by the typically docile state media.


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