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Death Toll from North China Colliery Fire Rises to 26
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The Death toll from Sunday's coal mine fire in north China's Shanxi Province has risen to 26 after rescuers recovered a body on Tuesday afternoon.


Another eight miners are still missing at the Nanshan Colliery in Wangyu Village of Lingshi County, and they are said to be unlikely to survive.



The fire was caused by the combustion of explosives stored in a shaft.


Rescue operation was suspended after rescuers learnt about that more than 170 boxes of explosives were stored in another place in the shaft.


"The rescued miners told us there were two explosives storage sites in the shaft. One caught fire and led to the tragedy, while the other was what we just found," said Feng Kaicheng, vice head of Lingshi County and head of the rescue operation.


"It is estimated that there were about four tons of explosives in the newly-discovered storage site, which is just about 20 meters away from the one that caught fire," said Feng. "We had to suspend the rescue operation as new fires or explosions might happen."


The flames in the shaft had been put out by Tuesday noon and the intensity of the toxic carbon dioxide has thus dropped quickly.


"We have sent rescuers to investigate if the explosives in the second storage site have been ignited by the fire," said Feng.


Thirty-six miners were working underground when privately made explosives stored in a pit of Nanshan Colliery in Wangyu Village of Lingshi County, Shanxi Province, caught fire late Sunday.


Two miners survived but 25 others were suffocated by poisonous gas released by the explosives, according to rescuers.


Most of the miners are migrant workers from eastern Shandong Province and southwestern Sichuan Province and some of their families have arrived at the coal mine.


"Families of the dead will be given at least 200,000 yuan (US$25,440) each in compensation," said Gong Anku, head of the Liaoning Provincial work safety supervision administration.


Police are searching for several coal mine managers, including the head of the mine Geng Runyu, who fled following the accident.


The license of the village-owned Nanshan Colliery, with an annual production capacity of 90,000 tons, expired more than six months ago. The number of the mine's registered workers is 120, however, the actual number was found to be 139.


Also on Tuesday, the death toll in coal mine gas blast in this coal-rich province climbed to 40, with seven others missing in the pit of Jiaojiazhai Colliery in Xinzhou.





(Xinhua News Agency November 15, 2006)


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