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Death toll in China coal mine explosion rises to 104.

BEIJING, Nov. 23 Kyodo

The death toll from a coal mine gas explosion in Heilongjiang Province in northeast China has risen to 104, making it the country's worst mining accident in two years, state media reported Monday.

Four miners remained trapped in the mining shaft early Monday, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

A total of 528 miners were working underground in the mine's shaft when the blast ripped through the Xinxing Coal Mine in Hegang City around 2:30 a.m. early Saturday.

Xinhua said that 420 miners managed to escape.

The force of the explosion shattered windows of buildings located within 20 meters of the site, according to footage shown on China Central Television, or CCTV.

The state-run television station reported that the blast was the result of a massive build-up of gas, but no official account of the cause has been given yet.

The China Daily newspaper Monday quoted Huang Yi, deputy chief of the State Administration of Coal Mine Safety, as saying that the accident ''fully revealed gaps in work safety and inadequacies in gas prevention and control measures.''

Heilongjiang Gov. Li Zhanshu said he takes major responsibility for the accident.

Immediately following the blast on Saturday, the mine's director, deputy director and chief engineer were all fired, the China Daily report said.

The scale of Saturday's explosion saw Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang rush to the scene to oversee rescue efforts and set up an investigation into the explosion.

According to Xinhua, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have also ''made instructions on the rescue work''.

In August 2007, two collieries were flooded in Xintai, Shandong Province, killing 181 miners.

In December of the same year, 105 miners were killed in the coal-rich Shanxi Province.

China's coal mines are among the deadliest work sites, claiming more than 1,000 lives in the first half of this year, according to figures released in July by the State Administration of Work Safety.

Two major coal mine accidents alone claimed 108 fatalities in the January-June period.

While the government has introduced a raft of legislation to improve safety, collusion between mine owners and local officials allows them to openly flout central government directives, the labor watchdog China Labor Bulletin said in a report earlier this year.

According to state-run media, as many as 80 percent of China's estimated 16,000 mines are unlicensed.

The Xinxing Coal Mine in Saturday's blast, however, is a subsidiary of the state-owned Heilongjiang Longmei Mining Holding Group, Xinhua said.

The mine, located over 400 kilometers east of the provincial capital Harbin, has an approved annual production capacity of 1.45 million tons, Xinhua said.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Nov 23, 2009
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