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Eleven Die in NW China Mine Blast
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The bodies of 11 miners killed in a coal mine gas blast on Wednesday have been recovered by rescuers in northwest China's Gansu Province, according to the local work safety bureau. Two miners, 39-year-old Li Wenjun, and 28-year-old Mei Chengfang, both from Qinghai Province, were seriously burned and are in a critical condition in hospital.

The explosion occurred at 6:20 a.m. in the No.1 pit in Tanshanling town, Wuwei city, around 180 kilometers from the provincial capital of Lanzhou. Thirty-eight miners were working in four teams when the incident occurred. Those who died were in the third team.

Eight of the dead are from Gansu and three from the nearby Qinghai Province. Officials gave no further details about the blast and an investigation is underway. The mine is privately-owned with an annual production of 30,000 tons.

The blast was the 38th fatal colliery accident in Gansu in 2006 and brings to 96 the number of miners who’ve died this year in the province. This is double the death toll from mine accidents in the province last year, said an official with the Provincial Administration of Coal Mine Safety.

The majority of the fatalities have been caused by gas blasts and 61 miners died in six explosions, official sources told Xinhua. Officials met in Wuwei city on Wednesday to discuss the issue and ordered the closure of all 41 coal mines in the city while safety inspections were carried out.

Four coal mine gas explosions in the provinces of Yunnan, Heilongjiang, Shanxi and Jiangxi over the weekend left 88 miners dead. Investigations have revealed the mines were in operation despite government orders for production to halt.

Another seven workers were killed on Monday when a coal heap collapsed and buried them in the southwestern province of Guizhou.

There are frequent explosions, cave-ins and flooding incidents in China's coal mines. These occurrences claim approximately 6,000 lives a year.

The number of mine accidents this year had two main causes, said an official with the Work Safety Bureau of Gansu who declined to be named. Inadequate safety supervision and the greed of many small mine owners who sacrificed safety for profits were to blame. Outdated equipment in many mines was also a problem. 

(Xinhua News Agency November 30, 2006)

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